APA has developed a brochure--dotCOMSENSE--to help consumers evaluate the credibility of Web sites that provide mental health advice and to help them safeguard their privacy on the Internet.
"Rules are different in the 'dot.com' world," says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for practice. "APA wants to help consumers know what questions to ask and what to look for to ensure that they are getting good information when they click on a mental health Web site."
Last year, 60 million people searched for health information online--and 40 percent of those users sought information about mental health.
Consumer tips provided in dotCOMSENSE include:
Watch for commercial influences. Investigate who owns the Web site to determine whether the mental health information being provided is objective.
Exercise caution. Check to see whether a referenced source for information is provided and whether licensed mental health practitioners or experienced researchers in the field are used.
APA recommends that consumers check Web site privacy policies to determine if personal information submitted online is traded or sold to other sites or organizations.
Above all else, Newman says, further investigation is warranted if something seems questionable or if there is any doubt about information being provided. APA recommends checking information with a professional association.