Internet forums: a self-help approach for individuals with schizophrenia?


Helene Haker, Psychiatric University Hospital, Research Unit for Clinical and Social Psychiatry, PO Box 1930, CH-8021 Zürich, Switzerland.


Objective:  To study if and how online self-help forums for individuals with schizophrenia are used.

Method:  We analysed 1200 postings of 576 users in 12 international schizophrenia forums regarding communicative skills [fields of interest and self-help mechanisms (SHM)].

Results:  The forums were predominantly used by affected individuals, few relatives or friends. The fields of interest of the users concern daily problems of the illness like symptoms and emotional involvement with the illness. Self-help mechanisms mostly used are disclosure and providing information. Emotional interaction e.g. empathy or gratitude were comparatively rare.

Conclusion:  Individuals suffering from schizophrenia participate in online self-help forums using the same SHM, discussing similar topics as do individuals with other psychiatric disorders as well as not affected relatives and caregivers. Therefore, this tool seems to be a useful approach to cope with alienation and isolation, albeit only a small number of schizophrenia forums are found in the Internet.