Stress and depression discourses on self-help websites : what is their relation in the online context?
Stress and depression are popular and powerful terms within the mental health field. Although the relation between the two terms has been discussed and investigated in lay and scientific discourse, less is known about how this relation is constructed online. Individuals wanting to learn more about these topics are increasingly turning online using a search engine as an initial quick method of obtaining mental health information. The present research examines the stress and depression discourse found on self-help websites using a social constructionist epistemological framework and the methodological approach of discourse analysis. In the first manuscript, I specifically examined how stress was constructed in the causal ontology of depression in six different websites. The analysis demonstrated that many possible relations between the two terms were included. This finding suggests that, in the online context, ensuring that website users find themselves represented in the text is of maximal importance. In the second manuscript, I examined how the stress and depression terms themselves were constructed. This analysis suggests that the stress discourse often borrowed from depression discourse, constructing the two terms in similar ways. This parallel construction involved defining both terms as mental illnesses, with corresponding symptoms and clinical presentations that required treatment. The degree of overlap between the two terms suggests that engaging the website user was more important than the specific label used to label the distress in the online context. I examine the contrast between the general, fluid, and elastic constructions of the mental health terms found online with the ever-evolving need for increased precision and demarcation of mental health conditions within the fields of psychiatry and psychology.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorMcMullen, Linda; Kalynchuk, Lisa
CommitteeBaetz, Marilyn; Cummings, Jorden; Teucher, Ulrich
Copyright DateSeptember 2015