John M. Grohol, Psy.D.


Medscape, a venture capital-backed Web site (whose sales and
marketing staff is nearly as large as the combined staff of
its editorial, design and production staff), is set to launch
a new section on its Web site devoted to mental health issues.
The press releases were sent out 3 weeks ago, and yours truly 
got an inside preview of their new area. Medscape requires a
free registration to utilize the site.


Medscape has traditionally been a Web site devoted to exclusively
medical topics in urology, surgery, AIDS, and the like. Only when
they received a grant from Pfizer US Pharmaceuticals Group did 
they put up a section on Women's Health issues and only when they 
received a similar grant from Abbott Laboratories did they decide
to get into mental health. The articles that they publish online
tend to be timely and accurate, from a select number of journals.
And like many other sites online today, they offer free Medline

Given their past medical emphasis then, it is not
suprising that they have chosen an editorial board consisting 
exclusively of psychiatrists, although psychiatrists are in a 
minority both in the clinical practice of the treatment of 
mental disorders as well as the research of them.
Charles Bowden, MD is the editor of Medscape's new section.


Medscape's first edition of the mental health section is 
somewhat disappointing, although it was still under
construction at the time of this review. Three
articles are featured, "Relapse During SSRI Treatment for Depression,"
by Goldberg, "Approach to the Differential Diagnosis of Catatonia,"
by Carroll, and "Believing is Seeing: Organic and Psychological Reasons 
for Hallucinations and Other Anomalous Psychiatric Symptoms," by
Beyerstein. This latter article even had a cute rotating psychodelic 
graphic which, I suppose, suggested a hallucinatory state? None
of these articles were available for review. Given Medscape's
past high quality and level of standards for their medical topics,
though, I expect these articles to be well-written and informative
on their topic areas.

Only three news article were listed at the time of this review,
two on AIDS (not anything having to do with the social or emotional 
aspect of AIDS, mind you), and one on managing cancer pain. Naturally,
again, the focus of all of these articles was on the medical side
of treatment, with only a nod and a wink given to the importance of 
addressing all aspects of a mental disorder. For example, only 4 
paragraphs, out of 24, in the "managing cancer pain" article discussed 
alternatives to medication and/or psychosocial interventions. Such pain 
management techniques, though, are commonly used and prescribed, but the 
article barely mentions them. This article is not new, though, and was
originally published in June, 1996. It, as well as the other two articles
listed, were already available through Medscape's "Journals" section. 

Another section, "Clinical News," offered news releases found on
Web sites such as the National Institute of Mental Health and
others. Four articles were available at the time of this review,
one on the recent statement of the NIMH on Anxiety Disorders, another
on depression being linked to bone loss, an article on chronic
fatigue syndrome, and another on Alzheimer's disease. All of these
articles are already freely available on their respective 
government Web sites.


Is Medscape offering something valuable and new to the online
mental health community of professionals and laypeople? Perhaps,
but it seems to be medically-based from the get-go and appears
to be simply re-packaging some of Medscape's current services.
While medical information about mental disorders is important,
especially if it is timely and accurate as Medscape's services
suggest it will be, it is no more than half the picture.
Medscape will not, as their press release suggests, "fulfill 
the need for timely, relevant clinical information," since
most of that information can still only be found in journal 
articles not published by Medscape.

I would find this offering much more relevant, useful and
interesting to professionals if it included a more balanced
view of mental disorders. A cross-discipline effort involving
other professions outside of psychiatry would have been much
more useful to the vast majority of mental health professionals

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. is an Associate Editor of PsychNews
International, Behavior OnLine, and Self-Help & Psychology
Magazine, as well as the Editor-in-chief of Perspectives &
Director of Mental Health Net (http://www.cmhc.com/).