I think this recent question gives a nice example of why the self-help close message needs to be adjusted: https://cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/9698/why-would-someone-act-out-scenes-of-perceived-abuse-from-past-events

In my opinion, the reasons for closing a self-help question are:

  • Answers are too localized to an individual
  • It's a bad idea to give medical advice in this format

The linked question fits both of these issues. The only reason it's not a self-help question is because it's not asked about the OP, but someone the OP knows.

Right now, there are 4 close votes, so it's likely this question will be closed. However, I think we could make the closing process for these types of questions more efficient if we changed the "self-help" close option to something more generic that covered the two points above.

Should we change the self-help close message? If yes, what should we change it to?

3 Answers 3


Building on Jeromy's answer, another solution could be to change the self-help close to cover multiple different kinds of self-help questions:

Questions about the behavior of an individual person are off-topic. If you are concerned about a potential medical issue, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

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    I'm hesitant to accept this answer because I'm not sure how many people are actively voting and what a sufficient consensus would look like. But it seems like there is some support for making this change.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 17:54
  • Only the mods have the tools for that, I think, so they're the only ones who can really say. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 8:16

Just a few thoughts: A challenge with self-help questions is that they are quite varied. Not all self-help questions concern a topic that requires medical advice.

For example, this one about information overload: information overload question screenshot

It contains the potential for a number of general scientific questions, but it has been worded in a very self-referential way. The question is structured around the asker's problem which is often multifaceted and specific to the person.

So I guess my sense is that the "on hold" message should cover the broad set of questions that are closed as "self-help" and possibly give suggestions for how to improve the question. At the moment it just emphasises the issue with self-diagnosis. But it might also be worth mentioning the issue with asking questions that only apply to the askers circumstances.

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    This suggests that maybe we should have two custom close messages: one that is for questions which are too localized to an individual's behavior and the other for medical questions.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 16:25
  • Don't forget "Too Localized" was removed in the first place "since the specific off-topic reasons now address its main use case". We can only add additional off-topic reasons.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 9:36
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    @StevenJeuris That's too bad. I think a lot of the poorer questions we get are just that: too localized. There's one question active now about a word for when a 'strong' party uses an unsound argument against a 'weak' party. It's obvious that this refers to some personal situation, but since the question avoided OVERT personal language, it's apparently fine. Sometimes I vote to close such questions based on off topic, sometimes on too broad or unclear, but they're actually just too localized even if they're not overtly personal. Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 10:52
  • It's interesting that the top three answers in the meta post about removing too localized are asking for it to come back. It definitely seems useful for this particular SE.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 12:18
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    I have the impression on this site, often "self-help" or "too localized" implies "lack of effort", ... not putting time into writing up a generalizable question which involves doing initial research in order to abstract away from one particular scenario.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 12:27
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    I think there are lots of submissions where people genuinely want to understand the causes and effects of personal behavioral and psychological issues, and don't have the background knowledge to realize that psychological science isn't very good at explaining any individual person's behavior. This doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of effort, because they are asking the question that they really want an answer to, but no one on this site can possibly provide.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 14:05
  • @Josh Took the words right out of my mouth. Sometimes there is also a lack of effort, but not necessarily. I think this Meta answer about effort vs. quality is pretty helpful: meta.stackexchange.com/a/210868/217374 Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 14:57

My proposal is that we change the message to the following:

"Questions about a medical diagnoses for an individual person are off-topic. Please consult a medical professional."

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