As we noted here, Mental Health America recently announced the winners of the “2009 Media Awards” that recognize excellence in mental health journalism. Sadly, despite the Internet’s popularity for the past 15 years, the Internet as a category is still missing from the awards. Apparently you can do good journalism online, you just won’t be acknowledged for it. (In Mental Health America’s defense, Pulitzer only began recognizing online journalism this year, too, so go figure.)
We thought we’d acknowledge some examples of outstanding online mental health and psychiatry journalism in 2008. You might argue with our broad interpretation of “journalism,” but we believe that writers or producers who can bring new insight, analysis or understanding about mental health concerns or significant issues in the fields of psychology and psychiatry are worthy of inclusion.
So without further ado, here are some of our top picks for online mental health journalism from the past year (largely based upon writing or publishing online in 2008).
Outstanding Online Mental Health Journalism: 2009
Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer published an article in May 2008 in Slate, Stealth Marketers, that described the lack of transparency and disclosure on a particular radio show hosted by Dr. Fred Goodwin in an episode entitled, “Prozac Nation: Revisited.” Slate’s article led to additional mainstream reporting on the issue, which left a black mark on Dr. Goodwin’s otherwise stellar career. (Coincidentally, a month earlier, Philip Dawdy over at Furious Seasons focused on the same show, but zeroed in on the incorrect information and marketing slant the commentators had on the show.)
On a more positive note, one old media company published a new feature on their website that must be mentioned: The New York Times’ Patient Voices. Well-produced audio stories, Patient Voices provides a first-person and personal experience of what it’s like to live with various health and mental health concerns. I’ll just highlight their Bipolar Disorder and ADHD segments (note: self-playing audio upon clicking).
Dr. Daniel Carlat, blogging over at The Carlat Psychiatry Blog, did more than his fair share of citizen journalism exposing the corrupt continuing medical education (CME) system, too often bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies pushing their specific medications. His entries in 2008 brought light to many such biased practices (and the resulting changes made in the industry as a result of efforts like his). Perhaps it’s not “mental health” enough, but CME is what provides education to psychiatrists and other professionals. This education is part of the basis they then use to make clinical judgments in the office treating patients for their mental health concern.
The mysterious CL Psych blogging at Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look often breaks down complex research findings and puts them into more clear and understandable terms. He explains how researchers skew the data and their results to get to their intended goals (regardless of what the data actually show). Since research informs practice and practice trends, biased or poor research can influence how clinicians end up treating people.
One year ago, Jeremy Dean blogging at PsyBlog described the limited research behind “brain training programs” that have become all the rage on devices such as the Nintendo DS and iPhone. He described in the article how many different types of strategies promoting cognitive enhancement are often no more than marketing hype.
We often enjoy the insightful writings of The Last Psychiatrist, as he provides a witty and interesting outlook on news, cultural trends, human behavior and research that would be difficult to find anywhere else. One of his most popular entries of 2008 was an analysis of the modern manufacturing of pop musical hits like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”, not for teenagers, but for middle-aged men. Or this entry that looked at why you probably wouldn’t want the widespread use of neuroimaging scans (like fMRI or MRI scans) in court. Or the three-part series about the apparent rise of narcissism in college students. Thought-provoking and always interesting.
Like him or hate him (he tends to be polarizing), Philip Dawdy also often provides the first public look into court documents, court trials and other information surrounding drug research (perhaps best known for making the Zyprexa court documents available for download on his site). You may never know quite what to expect from his blog, but he is a prime example of mental health journalism online.
Dr. Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks found a pre-print of the “Voodoo” neuroimaging fMRI study which leveled significant criticisms at much of the fMRI research published in the field in the past 20 years. The final paper and responses to it were just recently published in the May 13, 2009 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science. Bell’s finding of the pre-print set off a controversy online about the limits of fMRI brain imaging studies — which eventually affects our understanding of mental disorders.
And you can’t really leave 2008 without an honorable mention to U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley. He has single-handedly led to the exposure of dozens of discrepancies between the monies researchers claimed they made from drug companies, and the monies they reported as a conflict of interest to their universities. Such disclosures have led to a fundamental change in how such disclosures are made, including at organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Did we overlook someone who provided independent reporting or journalism online in the past year on a mental health, psychology or psychiatry topic? Please leave us feedback and we’ll add them to our list to review for next year’s entry.