Observer Forum

Wikis as a Source of Quality Information About Mental Disorders

We are delighted to learn of the APS Wikipedia Initiative (Observer, 2010, 23(10), p.5). Encouraging psychological scientists to contribute content can only improve the quality of information available to the public. However, there is inevitable concern that because anyone can contribute and edit information on Wikipedia, the information quality can be degraded by non-expert contributors. In many areas of psychological science, such as cognitive processes and behavioral neuroscience, it is not likely that expert contributions will be tampered with. However, in the area of mental health, many people have strong views based on personal experience, the media, and ideological commitment which may motivate them to make edits that are not soundly based. It is particularly important to have high quality information about mental disorders on the web, because websites are now a major source of information for the public and may guide what actions people take to benefit their own mental health or that of others. However, there is continuing concern about the quality of the information on mental disorders available on websites (Reavley & Jorm, in press).

We believe that the collaborative sharing of knowledge through wikis is a major development that has the potential to help people affected by mental disorders. However, the concern about non-expert contributions makes us cautious about Wikipedia as the best way to achieve this. We have recently developed an alternative MentalHealthWiki (www.mentalhealthwiki.org) which operates like Wikipedia, but requires contributors to register and have some relevant professional affiliation in the area of mental health before being allowed to edit content. Another difference is that MentalHealthWiki uses an enhanced version of the DekiWiki software, which is much simpler and more intuitive to use than the MediaWiki software used by Wikipedia. While we would encourage APS members to contribute to Wikipedia, we invite them to also post any contributions relevant to mental disorders to MentalHealthWiki. Posting on multiple wikis is acceptable practice.

We plan to carry out out a formal evaluation of the quality of information on MentalHealthWiki and aim to find out whether our approach produces any differences in quality from non-wiki websites, as well as the open-to-all approach of Wikipedia. œ

Anthony Jorm, Nicola Reavley, Amy Morgan

University of Melbourne, Australia

David Jorm

Sura Systems, Australia


References and Further Reading:

Reavley, N.J., & Jorm, A.F. (2011) The quality of mental disorder information websites: A review. Patient

Education and Counseling [Epub ahead of print].

Observer Vol.24, No.5 May/June, 2011

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