The discursive self-construction of suicidal help seekers in computer-mediated discourse
Keywords:suicidal help seekers, self-construction, discourse analysis, positioning, online-support-group
AbstractThe study focuses on the discursive self-construction of suicidal help seekers in an open computer-mediated forum for mental help. Our theoretical framework is inspired by a functionalist approach to discourse, which emphasizes that language resources are selfdisplaying. It also espouses discursive psychology, which prioritizes the study of psychological and social phenomena in discursive processes. In addition, we adopt the Four World Approach to the analysis of positioning. Qualitative and quantitative analyses show that the density of ‘irrealis’ (i.e. negation, future and wishes) units and figurative forms was significantly higher in the suicidal messages compared with the messages of other troubled selves, who produced more ‘realis’ units (i.e. specific and generic stories) and information questions. We interpret these findings as showing that in their attempt to conceptualize conflict and pain, suicidal help-seekers shied away from the narration of past experience and focused instead on the construction of death. The other troubled help seekers used realis units and questions in order to describe their experience to guarantee that help would be provided.
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