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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 Oct;50(10):1601-7. doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1036-z. Epub 2015 Feb 22.

The forum as a friend: parental mental illness and communication on open Internet forums.

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Department of Psychology, Karlstad University, 65188, Karlstad, Sweden.
Department of Psychology, Karlstad University, 65188, Karlstad, Sweden.



The aim of this study was to identify how daughters or sons to parents suffering from mental illness perceive their situation. The objective was to provide new knowledge based on what they communicate on open Internet forums.


The sample consisted of forum posts written by individuals who reported that they had mentally ill parents. Data collection comprised 301 comments from 35 forum threads on 5 different Swedish Internet forums, and predetermined inclusion criteria were used. Data were analyzed qualitatively using thematic analysis.


The analysis generated four themes: "Caregiver burden," "Knowledge seeking," "Support from the forum," and "Frustration and powerlessness over health care." The results showed that parents' mental illness affected the forum writers on several levels, and they often felt stigmatized. The writers often lacked knowledge of their parents' mental illness and sought out Internet forums for information and support from peers in similar situations. The psychiatric care given to the parents was a source of dissatisfaction among the forum writers, who often felt that their parents did not receive adequate care.


This study shows that fear of stigmatization and perceived lack of care and support caused forum writers to anonymously seek out Internet forums for information and support from others with similar experiences. The role of social support and the attractiveness of anonymity and availability typical for open Internet forums ought to be considered by health care professionals and researchers when developing new ways for providing support for children or adolescents with a mentally ill parent.


Internet forum; Parental mental illness; Stigma; Support

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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