Child Mental Health: Fact vs. Fiction

As the parent of a child with mental health concerns, you have to be well-informed so you can make the best treatment decisions for your child.  There are many sources of information about child mental health issues. However, figuring out whether the information is based on facts, opinions, or pure nonsense can be challenging. Here are some tips, from Dr. Peter Jensen, for sorting fact from fiction when it comes to children’s mental health:

 1.    Television doesn’t equal truth.

Beware of what you learn about children’s mental health and treatment from television, especially talk shows.  Ratings influence what you see on television. Controversial and sensational discussions are generally more entertaining than a well-researched, thoughtful presentation.  Celebrities are more interesting than scientists.  Given these realities, television is not the most reliable source of mental health information.  Of course, you may come across accurate and helpful information on television, but remember just because it is on television doesn’t make it true.

2.    Watch out for what you read on the Web

Just like television the Web can be a source of misinformation.  Although the Web is an easy, quick and convenient way to gather information about your child’s mental health concerns, it does not let you know anything about the quality or accuracy of the information. Therefore, you must watch out for what you read on the Web.  When searching for child mental health information, stick to reputable sites like WebMD or the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH,

3.    Rely on reputable organizations to sort sense from nonsense

Many parent organizations gather and screen mental health information and make it available to parents in easy to understand formats.  Examples of such organizations include:

Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)

You can trust these organizations and others like them to provide accurate child mental health information

 4.    Ask your child’s doctor

Your child’s doctor can be valuable source of information.  Check in with him when you have a questions about a new treatment or report you have heard about.  The more specific your child’s doctor is when responding to your question (e.g., “Based on my read of the journal article about that, I think…”), the more likely it may be that her opinion is sound.  Be wary if your child’s doctor appears defensive or offended by your question. That may indicate he will have difficulty entering into a good parent-provider partnership with you.