National Mental Health Association

Quality of Mental Health Information on the Internet: Connecting the Dots

The National Mental Health Association convened a Summit meeting on February 15, 2001. CWA Ltd. was retained to collaborate with NMHA in designing and conducting the Summit.

Forty-two stakeholder representatives and a dozen observers from over thirty organizations addressed the question of how to improve the quality of mental health information on the Internet. Through a collaborative action planning model founded in the systems sciences, the stakeholders proposed and clarified 57 guiding principles for improving the quality of mental health information on the Internet. Thirty-six participants voted on relative importance by studying an affinity pattern of the principles. Forty-two principles received one or more votes; this corresponds to a divergence of opinion of approximately 75%.

The participants were subsequently engaged in exploring the influences among the most important principles and constructed an Influence Pattern with a subset of 11 important principles. These eleven principles received a total of 103 votes, or approximately 60% of all the votes recorded. Examination of these eleven principles and the relationships between them identified five tracks were progress may be made.

These tracks are:
1) Empowerment – Allow users to maximize their own evaluation and use of mental health information collected on the Internet.
2) Transparency – Improve the disclosure of information about mental health Web sites, including their personnel, their sponsors and partners, and the source of the information they provide.
3) Cultural Competence – Provide mental health information in appropriate ways, taking into account the education level, race, and/ or age of visitors, and without stigmatizing people with mental illness.
4) Privacy and Security – Improve the privacy and security of personal mental health information as well as other information about individuals seeking information about mental health on the Web.
5) Quality Assurance and Quality Standards – Evaluate and improve the quality of information and services concerning mental health on the Internet.

To make progress, the stakeholders should focus on principles in one or two tracks. In particular, the principles in the areas of Empowerment and in Cultural Competence should provide an opportunity to make significant progress in improving the quality of information about mental health on the Internet. To review this report visit http://web.archive.org/web/20070711133646/http://www.nmha.org/conf/summit_proceedings.cfm.

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