‘Feel like going crazy’: Mental health discourses in an online support group for mothers during COVID-19

Olga A. Zayts-Spence*, Vincent Wai Sum Tse, Zoe Fortune

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


COVID-19 has become a mental health pandemic. The impact on vulnerable demographic groups has been particularly severe. This paper focuses on women in employment in Hong Kong who have had to balance remote work and online schooling for over 2 years. Using semi-ethnography and theme-oriented discourse analysis, we examine 200 threads that concern members’ mental health on a popular Facebook support group for mothers. We demonstrate that mental health messages are typically framed as ‘troubles talk’. Other support group members actively align with a trouble-teller through ‘caring responses’, namely expressions of empathy and sympathy. These are realized through assessments of the trouble-teller’s experience, reports of similar experiences; expressions of compassion and advice-giving. Mental health talk online is heavily mitigated, nevertheless the medium provides a space for expressing mental health troubles and providing informal psychosocial support. We advocate the importance of microanalytic discourse studies for mental health research to get insights into people’s lived experiences during the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-270
Number of pages16
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number2
Early online date22 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • COVID-19
  • informal psychosocial support
  • mental health pandemic
  • motherhood online
  • online support groups
  • semi-ethnography
  • theme-oriented discourse analysis
  • troubles-talk
  • women in employment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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