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How to find health information on the web

The Internet provides a world-wide library of information, including a vast array about mental health. Unfortunately, this includes a lot of misinformation. Get the most from the web by learning where and how to look for information you can trust.

Where to find it
Mental health associations and government agencies are a wealth of credible information. Find many on our Online Resources page.

Government and university sites provide reliable information on disorders and treatments: Look for .gov and .edu in your search results, for example, MedLinePlus.

Find information about medications on drug databases found on our Medications Resources page. You can also check the drug company’s site by doing a search for the drug name.

Discussion boards, chat rooms and blogs can be supportive places where people can share their personal experiences. You may find helpful advice, topics to discuss with your doctor and personal encouragement, but, always remember that you are reading the opinions and stories of individuals. Someone else’s experience with their illness or treatment may be very different from yours.

Always seek information from several sources; don’t rely on just one.

How to find it
When using Google or another search engine, use the narrowest possible search term. If you want your result to include bipolar and medications and not just one of these words, search for bipolar +medications. If you want information about bipolar medications but not lithium, enter the search term bipolar+medications-lithium. If you want results on an exact phrase, enter it in quotes, like this «bipolar II».

Google allows you to restrict your search results by domain. To find sites only from government agencies or universities, type in the search box your search terms along with the command or For example: bipolar medication
To find scholarly writings on your topics (studies, journal articles), use Google’s «scholarly search.» Some of this information is restricted to professionals, but many public libraries subscribe to journals and databases and allow their cardholders to access them. Ask your librarian.

How to know if it’s trustworthy

When judging a source, ask yourself:
Here are some tips that may help you decide whether information is credible:

Is the information up-to-date? In the Internet world, some of what goes up, never comes down. Look for a date. You want the latest information on medications, treatments and studies.

Who’s telling me this? Look for an «About us» section or information at the bottom of the page that might identify the source of the information.

What are the author’s credentials? Is the information fact or opinion? Statements like: «Prozac is the only effective treatment for depression.» are clues that the information is not trustworthy. Does the author cite credible sources? Does it quote a Harvard research team or the author’s brother-in-law?

Does the author have anything to gain from presenting their point of view? A site sponsored by a drug company may not cover other treatments. Is there more advertising than information?

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