We were extremely proud to have one of our team members selected to lead a panel discussion at this year’s annual SXSW Interactive festival! Schipulite Sarah M. Worthy and former Schipulite Data Analyst Dr. Dharol Stevens, PhD. led a Core Conversation on the topic of “How to Crowdsource Your Mental Health for Free.”
The audience was made up of an array of medical professionals, those looking for better ways to find health information online, and those curious about the topic as it relates to the growing trend of Health 2.0. The panel was a great discussion with lots of feedback and participation. Below are my highlights:
Why Crowdsourcing for Mental Health?
Crowdsourcing is where many people are doing a little bit of the work instead of one person doing all the work.
Over 50% of people in the US can’t afford afford mental health treatment. Mental health issues are complicated and much of the treatment is trial and error. Unlike other medical conditions, mental health symptoms do not necessarily have only one answer that a doctor (even a very experienced doctor) can diagnose with a single test or symptom.
For Mental Health issues specifically, crowdsourcing can help piece together the puzzle of what is really going on for symptoms that are difficult to diagnose. The idea is that crowdsourcing is a tool you can use to be more informed and aware when you visit a doctor.
The Power of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing’s power is in its specifics. Reading other people’s very specific accounts can hopefully ring true to your unique situation as well.
The benefits of these personal experiences include:
- Reading other people’s stories lets you know you’re not alone
- Seeing stories of those going through treatment may set expectations for what treatment entails
- Stories of people who have overcome health issues gives hope that the symptoms will eventually end
- Reading other people’s accounts can also help you define symptoms you didn’t otherwise know how to articulate, or things you didn’t know were a symptom you should be paying attention to
- These accounts give access to peer support which can be incredibly powerful for those going through any kind of medical treatment
- When you visit your doctor, you can ask more informed questions to get to treatment faster
Tools for Anonymous Online Searching
Many people hesitate to do searches around mental health online because they are worried about the privacy issues involved. If your family or peers cause these concerns, here are some resources to try for anonymous searching online:
- Incognito mode in the Chrome browser when browsing the web
- Tor – For IP address anonymity online
- Duck Duck Go – Anonymous Search Engine with Privacy at its core
Validating Medical Information Online – The Downside to Crowdsourcing
The danger of crowdsourcing is that 50% of health sites have incorrect information. You can combat this by arming yourself with tools to evaluate information online and look for trusted sources.
Tips for Validating Online Medical Information
- Verify that it is written by an expert
- Make sure it is current & cites valid sources
- Look for certifications and disclaimers
Valid Sources for Medical Information Online
- Look for .gov or .edu sites
- Anything linked from the resource pubmed will be credible
- If you find studies cross linked you can look for them on scholar.google.com – Sometimes it will appear as though you have to pay for detailed study information, but any government journal is required to release its studies for free after 2 years
- Health on the Net is a great resource as well – this organization’s goal is to publish credible medical information
“It’s never been easier to cross reference information online” – Dr. Dharol Stevens
Mental Health Apps to Help Focus
- Mood Tracker tracks your mood over time and shows patterns like how your mood is related to stress, amount of sleep, etc.
- Focus Booster uses the Pomodoro technique to break down work into 25 minute chunks of uninterrupted time
- Lifetopix is an app of organization tools help you stay organized and focused
- Self Control blacklists programs or websites you block for a certain period of time so you can focus
Tips for Finding a Doctor
“If you take one thing away from this, it is that the Internet is not your doctor. You still need a doctor.” – Sarah M. Worthy
The internet will never replace a medical professional. Hopefully it will arm you with the tools to start the conversation.
Tips for Finding a Doctor
- Unfortunately the best way to find a doctor is still word of mouth
- Like treatment, know that finding a doctor you like will be effort – it may take some trial and error
- If you don’t like the person you are working with it’s ok to look for another doctor (your gut feeling is probably right)
Apps to for Locating a Doctor
(Note that this list was crowdsourced from the audience)
- EA – Emotions Anonymous groups who use a 12 step program similar to AA
- Some communities have local forums with advice to look for as well
Keep the Conversation Going! More on This Topic:
- Houston Chronicle: A Personal Cure Found By a Crowd? Q&A with Sarah M. Worthy
- KUT News NPR Austin: Health Issues on Stage at SXSW