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Reaching out to people struggling with their lives: a discourse analysis of answers from Internet-based services in Norway and Sweden

Authors Andersen AJW, Svensson

Received 1 June 2012

Accepted for publication 15 August 2012

Published 17 September 2012 Volume 2012:5 Pages 113—121


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Anders Johan W Andersen,1 Tommy Svensson2

1Department of Psychosocial Health, University of Agder, Grimstad, Norway; 2Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden

Abstract: The Internet has enlarged the scope of human communication, opening new avenues for connecting with people who are struggling with their lives. This article presents a discourse analysis of 101 responses to 98 questions that were posted on 14 different Internet-based mental health services in Norway and Sweden. We aimed to examine and describe the dominant understandings and favored recommendations in the services’ answers, and we reflected upon the social consequences of those answers. The services generally understood life struggles as an abnormal state of mind, life rhythms, or self-reinforcing loops. Internet-based mental health services primarily counsel service users to seek help, talk to health care professionals face-to-face, and discuss their life struggles openly and honestly. They also urge service users to take better care of themselves and socialize with other people. However, such answers might enhance the individualization of life problems, masking social origin and construction. Consequently, the services are challenged to include social explanations in their answers and strengthen their responsibility to amplify peoples’ messages at a societal level. Potentially, such answers could strengthen democratic structures and put pressure on social equity.

Keywords: depression, e-mental health, health psychology, Internet, public health

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