_________________________________________________________________ VOLUME 1, ISSUE 6 PSYCHNEWS INTERNATIONAL October 1996 _________________________________________________________________ SECTION F: REVIEWS ----------------------------------------------------------------- A REVIEW OF MEDSCAPE'S MENTAL HEALTH SECTION http://www.medscape.com/ John M. Grohol, Psy.D. INTRODUCTION 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. BACKGROUND 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 searching. 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. FIRST LOOKS 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. CONCLUSION 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 online. -- 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/).