There haven’t been any new posts on PsyOWA recently, but we are back and planning a new series of posts entitled “Myths about Mental Health.” In this series of posts we will be discussing some common myths surrounding psychology and mental health. Because of the stigma surrounding there is a lot of inaccurate information out there. One of the best ways to combat stigma and get people the help that they need is giving them good information. Information really can be powerful.
To kick off the series in this post, I want to talk about the myth that “everything you read on the internet is true.” This myth is especially important right now with all the talk of “fake news” and the potential for social media to spread inaccurate information. I have lost count of how many times I have seen a news story on Facebook, only to find out that it was untrue or inaccurate. There also have been many times I have seen posts about mental health or people with mental health issues that are not true or accurate. It is important to make sure the information that you are getting is accurate, especially when it concerns your health and/or mental health. It can be dangerous to follow recommendations that are not supported by evidence and getting bad information about your healthcare can prevent you from getting the care you may really need.
Here are some tips to make sure that information you are reading on the internet is true and accurate:
- Look in the article for sources. Articles that present recommendations, research, or facts should cite their sources. This might be a link to another website, the citation for an article, or the name of a trusted professional that was interviewed. Look for these things when you read an article.
- When you see a post check the source. Many articles cite their sources. Sources like medical journals and reliable news outlets are more likely to have accurate information that websites that are based on opinion or not linked to a reliable source. And even if an article cites the source, don’t assume it is correct. Follow up for yourself to make sure the source is real and cited correctly.
- If possible, read the original source of information. Sometimes when blogs cite sources the author did not fully read the original source and is only providing you with some of the information. Sometimes important facts can get lost when authors summarize other sources.
- Remember there is a difference between opinion and fact and check to make sure when you are reading something if it is based on one or the other. For example, if a blog was promoting a natural herb for the treatment of depression because the author or a TV doctor thinks it is a great treatment, that is an opinion and may not be true. Differently, if a blog cites a study from a reputable source that tested the herb on 1,000 patients with depression and found a reliable improvement, the information may be more factual.
- Ask questions. If you aren’t sure if something is accurate ask the author of the post what their sources are or what resources they utilized. Many times when people are posting inaccurate information they cannot answer these types of questions.
- Don’t repost or share information unless you have checked the validity of it yourself. Just like you don’t want to be reading stories or information that are untrue neither do your friends, loved ones, or followers. Be an advocate for quality information.
- When in doubt “Google it!” If a headline sounds unbelievable or outrageous type the headline into Google. Chances are other people have noticed this too and there may be a news story or fact checking website that can tell you if the article is true or not.
If you follow these tips it is more likely that you will get accurate and helpful information. Follow PsyOWA for more helpful articles on the myths surrounding mental health and psychology, and other great public information.