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Nord J Psychiatry. 2002;56(1):59-65.

Social support in a wired world: use of online mental health forums in Norway.

Author information

1
National Centre for Telemedicine, University Hospital of North Norway, P.O. Box 35, NO-9038 Tromsø, Norway.

Abstract

This study explored the use of the four major Norwegian mental-health-related online discussion forums; who participate, why, and what implications use may have. The objective was to provide a basis for proposing relevant research questions and issues for public policy attention. A total of 492 responses to a web-based questionnaire were received. The respondents, predominantly women (78%) in the age range 18--35 years, found forum participation useful for information, and social contact and support. A majority (75%) found it easier to discuss personal problems online than face-to-face, and almost half say they discuss problems online that they do not discuss face-to-face. A majority would not have participated had they not had the option of using a pseudonym. Respondents perceive discussion groups as a supplement rather than a replacement of traditional mental health services, reporting no change in the amount or type of service used. A clear majority want professionals to take an active role in these types of forum. Comments from respondents indicate that forums may have an empowering effect. We believe that online interaction can have unique benefits for people suffering from mental disorders. Professionals will need new knowledge and perceptions of their roles, and public authorities will have to decide their role in influencing the quality of services offered, and the social values conveyed, to those who seek help through the Internet.

PMID:
11869468
DOI:
10.1080/08039480252803945
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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