Responsible Scientific Reporting
This post over at Corpus Callosum is worth reading. The question of whether mental illness is becoming an epidemic, increasing at a rapid pace in the last century, has been raised by a number of people. (ex. here's one book by Fuller Torrey) . Due to the confounds of changes over time in stigma, diagnoses and diagnostic criteria, etc., it's hard to determine if there has been a surge in mental illness, if mental illness is now over-diagnosed, or if mental illness has always been pervasive yet under the radar.
I don't know what the answer is. I do know, however, that irresponsible or misguided journalism has resulted in people believing and responding to a lot of "facts" that are unsubstantiated or that have been misrepresented. Pharyngula and Orac recently posted about this issue in response to a Salon article on the Autism and Vaccine link.
I'm not going to get into the argument of whether or not I believe heavy metals in vaccines can cause autism. I am going to point out, however, that the media jumped on this like pigs on shit, and now we have parents pumping their children full of heavy metal chelating agents when there is no evidence of benefit over cost for this treatment.
My advice is to always go back and read the original research papers. I know that they can be rough to get through, but after you have read a few of them, it gets easier. Look at the real data and think about what you have read. There's nothing wrong with using the regular media and news organizations for info on scientific discoveries and health-related issues. Just don't use that as your only source when forming opinions or when deciding on treatments, etc.