TL;DR: Despite the ease of accessing information about mental health from the internet, no filters exist that return only high-quality, research-based results. Mentally Minded is an evidence-based online platform that answers any mental health question anonymously through rigorous research and interviews with field professionals - all in a short, accessible format.
Why I chose this topic: I am part of the Mentally Minded team who saw the need for an inclusive, honest and science-driven environment where delicate mental health information can be thoughtfully disseminated to anyone that needs it.
And we all need it.
A typical search engine is a powerful tool. Ask Google what the “best chicken pot pie recipe” is, and responses populate in under two seconds. But are they reliable? Accurate? Consistent? Up-to-date? Maybe you don’t care because you’re hungry. In the interest of returning results quickly, Google sacrifices these crucial components, and the user is left to trust the answers blindly. Yet when it comes to the topic of mental health, accuracy and reliability are paramount. Some dependable websites addressing mental health issues do exist, yet they are highly generalized and/or steeped in jargon. Why isn’t there an evidence-based website answering specific mental health questions?
Through the collaborative, passionate and determined efforts of three grad students and a postdoctoral fellow, located at universities across North America (meet the Mentally Minded team), we launched our website in March 2022. Before designing and launching it, our team spent many months discussing our research plan, social media strategy and target audience. We decided the best way to rigorously address the public’s (anonymous) mental health questions is by combining well-researched information from reputable sources and infusing them with one-on-one field expert interviews. Each team member takes turns researching and writing a short and accessible answer within a few weeks. We aimed to direct our answers at anyone with an interest in mental health issues, given mental health does not discriminate based on age, sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnicity. Finally, we promoted the site’s content and requested questions through Twitter and Instagram.
In the interest of transparency, we publicly posted our mission on our website.
According to a nationally representative poll during the summer of 2022, 9 out of 10 adults said they believe there is a mental health crisis in the United States. If the same 90% of US adults are also researching answers to their mental health questions and receiving inaccurate information, the result is catastrophic - individuals are left misinformed, exacerbating the mental health crisis. Through Mentally Minded, we can help dismantle the web of false mental health information by constructing a science-based repository of answers to the community’s most pressing questions. Since its inception in March, Mentally Minded has garnered a modest following on Twitter and Instagram, and is steadily growing by reaching an international audience.
Importantly, an average session duration is just over 13 minutes, which suggests that the users are engaging with the content and not merely perusing the website.
Mentally Minded believes our platform can serve as a model for other science communication endeavors. Unlike other mental health information websites, Mentally Minded actively involves the audience on the other side of the screen by encouraging community questions. This type of advocacy is important because effective science communication should lead with public engagement, strive to be inclusive and create an organic, meaningful engagement with scientific research. The balanced answer Mentally Minded presents to an audience hungry for honest information from the field experts leaves the reader well-informed to make mental health decisions. Ultimately, Mentally Minded aims to drive empowerment through knowledge and enhance well-being.
In order to grow Mentally Minded, we kindly ask that you share this resource widely and encourage the audience to ask questions for maximum reach.
Edited by Kay McCallum and Niveen Abi Ghannam
Cover image credit: Teodora Stoica