Could we create a link list to forums, support groups, professional counseling drop-in centres etc. for self-help questions?

I often see people looking for help and would like to send them somewhere instead of just telling them to go away.

If we feel the above is beyond our will and ability or beyond the scope of this site, could we maybe create a short text that explains why it is not a good idea to look for self-help on the web when the problem is serious enough to require professional intervention? This explanation could be part of the "closed because self-help" notice.

I'm currently thinking of not providing links, but rather a short explanation and example of how to find professional help. I'm sure that in most countries there will be a professional organisation such as the APA in the US that offers an online tool to locate therapists (http://locator.apa.org/). Giving lay people an idea about how to search for such information might be a good beginning for those that don't know where to find help. I'll maybe come up with a draft of this whenever I find the time. Or you might try your hand, dear reader ;-)

  • 3
    Great idea, I fully support this!
    – Josh
    Nov 12, 2013 at 15:20
  • 1
    sounds like a good idea; given the global nature of the site, they'd either need to be online resources or be broken down by major stack exchange countries and regions. Nov 13, 2013 at 2:44

2 Answers 2


We don't need to be callous when turning people away. There was one instance when a person posted about all their medications and used their full name. The post was flagged for deletion, for the protection of that person's privacy. This person was upset by the lack of assistance, but when people are unwell, sometimes being helpful can be perceived as being unhelpful.

In answer to the question.

I think this is stretching our net of usefulness too far and wide. Our purpose here is not to help people with mental illness, but to offer a resource of scientific information.

This concerns me it is outside of the scope of the site. Stack Exchange has been a Q&A format and offers answers to questions that are on topic for each site. It cannot do everything.

Also, it is hard to refer people to the best organisation for them.. I just see potential pitfalls here, the rigid, self-help questions are not on-topic is a little undermined if we offer a links for organisations offering help with mental illness (or the like).

The added problem is then deciding which organisations which should be linked, as this can be debatable.

Given the site is not out of beta yet, it's not like it's a top resource (yet) and if a person can find their way here to ask a question, they should be capable of finding links to organisations that can help. This also gives me the impression, if a person comes here for self-help advice, perhaps they are trying to circumvent the more appropriate pathways to get help, I'm not sure we should engage in this either way. Just keep our site on topic.

When I worked on a cancer ward in an hospital I would sometimes get phone calls about people inquiring about long term palliative care on the ward (which is not what the hospital was designed for, it was for acute care). It was not unusual for the same person to have tried calling other organisations and the Palliative Care Specialists also, and we would discover this, as we communicated and could see when a person was "care" shopping, or "doctor" shopping for want of a better description.

This leads onto another issue, is, the stigma attached with mental health forces some people to try and get treatment surreptitiously, even by getting access to medication without it being on the record. Hence some people will make inquiries about medications and what substitutes may be suitable. If we keep the site as scientific and on-topic as possible, we will, ultimately, be providing a better resource for the community.

I hope I have linked up my ideas behind my points clearly.


So I've gone ahead and tried my hand at it... :) what posted a new meta-question for listing resources (Finding help with psychological and emotional problems), so I've moved my lists over there, including both general online resources that I think/know are usable internationally, and USA-specific resources. Here's how I've organized my lists; I'd like to suggest this structure tentatively and invite a critique:

  1. Health professional locators
    • Because the best place to start is through established, face-to-face communication channels.
  2. Crisis helplines
    • Because these will probably offer the quickest crisis response from experienced professionals.
  3. Information about online therapy
    • Because there's a lot to know (both good and bad) about this new and growing method.
  4. Online therapy providers
    • There's actually a lot of options out there, though they generally seem less than ideal.

I would also like to include somewhere prominent in our list—should the community choose to use it—that I'm not a mental health services practitioner, and my listing of resources is not intended as provision of mental health services in itself, much less a personal recommendation or any guarantee from me whatsoever as to the quality of the resources listed. I've left out some I was rather unimpressed with, but that doesn't mean I've given my vote of confidence to the ones I have listed. FWIW, a counselor-in-training (my girlfriend :) thinks I'm at no legitimate risk of being held legally responsible for anyone's negative outcomes simply because I've listed these without recommendation, but an attorney (my dad; so don't even try to sue me! :) has pointed out that people have been sued successfully for some pretty legitimately legal behaviors. (E.g., a bartender was sued successfully for giving advice at a bar!!)

Therefore I encourage others to more thoroughly consider and point out any legal risks and ramifications of the list for individuals providing lists (myself and what so far) and for the site in general. If we as a community are comfortable with accepting any such risks and making use of these lists (e.g., linking them alongside the other meta-question, Why was my self-help question closed as off-topic?), it would be nice to share some of the (hopefully very) limited legal risk. I'd be fine with converting our lists to community wikis if that helps us share responsibility and invite edits; our lists are necessarily incomplete and hopefully will deserve updating in the future. Nonetheless, for my part, I'm willing to stand alone to whatever extent that is necessary and possible here. I suspect this possibility is also limited, because the community is hosting my list, and what's meta-question solicits and endorses it to some extent.

  • 1
    Holy %&$#! I wish I could +10 this :-) Now I'll have to do the same for Germany ...
    – user3116
    Feb 8, 2014 at 11:00
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    Nick, I flaged this question to have it moved to the new question I created. I'd like to keep the resources and the discussion separate. See meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/820/…
    – user3116
    Feb 8, 2014 at 11:24
  • @what Nick can move that himself if he feels he wants to place his content there.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:29
  • Okay, @NickStauner, you heard Steven :-)
    – user3116
    Feb 8, 2014 at 17:46
  • Ha! I don't care where this goes; I just hope it's useful. :) I like what's meta-question structure, so I'm happy to follow it. I'll go ahead and transfer it over there, edit this to a link, and move my comment here into this answer. Feb 8, 2014 at 18:48

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