- ソシオロジ (ISSN:05841380)
- vol.55, no.3, pp.53-68,127, 2011
This paper aims to clarify the formation and characteristics of new Internet-related self-help activities for people who suffer from mental illnesses. First, these activities are not organized by existing self-help groups outside the Internet; and secondly, the relationship between the participants is very fluid. The participants use the Internet as a tool to contact each other without having recourse to any sort of intermediary services such as medical and welfare agencies. They themselves select people with whom to talk, and decide what to do at their own discretion. When starting such activities, it may happen that they do not trust each other at first, because their communication starts with anonymous Internet BBS on which verbal abuse and aspersions are posted frequently. But if they manage to hit it off with other people at offline meetings planned online anonymously, it becomes a precious experience for them in creating new intimate relationships that - among other things - might prevent the participants from committing suicide. They encourage each other, relieve their loneliness, and help each other to live with, and to manage, their illnesses. However,if these intimate relationships develop into a fixed relationship, then that may create a greater risk of trouble. In such cases, people tend to return to anonymous online communications as a sort of risk aversion. On the other hand, this also gives them another chance for precious experiences in finding a kindred spirit among other participants. Such activities create opportunities for socially vulnerable people to maintain their self-identity as a kind of reflexive project such as is imposed on all people in individualized societies, along with a chance for risk aversion among peer helpers. In this way, they use the Internet to enhance their discretionary power to continue self-help activities.