An investigation of the information provided to the parents of young people with mental health needs on an internet forum.

Publication date: Mar 01, 2021

Access to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) can be difficult, with lengthy wait times. Many of the young people and their parents are not signposted to any form of support during their wait for initial assessment or treatment and people are increasingly turning towards web-based resources for help and advice. However, there are some concerns about the quality of the information shared online. Research on the use and quality of information shared on online platforms for mental health inquiries is limited. We aimed to investigate the content and quality of the responses shared by forum users on an online forum for parents of young people with mental health needs (Mumsnet ‘Talk’). Forum users were primarily parents, but 8 posts were written by posters identifying as a healthcare worker, teacher, or autism spectrum specialist. Qualitative methodology was adopted for this study. Forum content from Mumsnet was extracted in an anonymised form and thematic analysis was conducted to explore the content. Information shared in the online forum was assessed for quality by comparing the responses with clinical guidelines. Thread topics related to 16 mental health problems. “Autistic Traits/Autism Spectrum Disorder”, “Obsessions and Intrusive Thoughts/ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” and “Comorbid Anxiety and Depression” were the most prevalent thread topics, consisting 38. 3% of the extracted content. The investigation focused on “Information Offered” as the general dimension. Based on the thematic analysis, there were four second-order themes regarding the information offered by forum users; referral, advice, anecdotal information and opinion on case. The quantitative assessment of responses found that 58. 3% of the knowledge exchange on Mumsnet was congruent with evidence-based clinical guidelines. Themes indicate that parents of children and young people with mental health needs seem to use online fora for informational support. It is promising that a significant proportion of the information shared within the extracted forum content is congruent with evidence-based knowledge. However, further investigation is needed to generate better understanding of the overall quality of mental health information available on online platforms.

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Concepts Keywords
Anxiety Mumsnet
Autism Abnormal psychology
Depression Branches of biology
Healthcare Psychiatric diagnosis
Mumsnet Psychiatry
Online Online mental inquiries
Teacher Healthcare
Autism spectrum
Mental disorder


Type Source Name
disease MESH autism
disease MESH Autism Spectrum Disorder
disease MESH Obsessions
disease MESH Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
disease MESH Anxiety
disease MESH Depression
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide

Original Article

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