Connecting the invisible dots: Reaching lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents and young adults at risk for suicide through online social networks

Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, University of Rochester, 300 Crittenden Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 07/2009; 69(3):469-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.05.029
Source: PubMed


Young lesbian, gay, and bisexual (young LGB) individuals report higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts from their late teens through early twenties. Their high rate of Internet use suggests that online social networks offer a novel opportunity to reach them. This study explores online social networks as a venue for prevention research targeting young LGB. An automated data collection program was used to map the social connections between LGB self-identified individuals between 16 and 24 years old participating in an online social network. We then completed a descriptive analysis of the structural characteristics known to affect diffusion within such networks. Finally, we conducted Monte Carlo simulations of peer-driven diffusion of a hypothetical preventive intervention within the observed network under varying starting conditions. We mapped a network of 100,014 young LGB. The mean age was 20.4 years. The mean nodal degree was 137.5, representing an exponential degree distribution ranging from 1 through 4309. Monte Carlo simulations revealed that a peer-driven preventive intervention ultimately reached final sample sizes of up to 18,409 individuals. The network's structure is consistent with other social networks in terms of the underlying degree distribution. Such networks are typically formed dynamically through a process of preferential attachment. This implies that some individuals could be more important to target to facilitate the diffusion of interventions. However, in terms of determining the success of an intervention targeting this population, our simulation results suggest that varying the number of peers that can be recruited is more important than increasing the number of randomly-selected starting individuals. This has implications for intervention design. Given the potential to access this previously isolated population, this novel approach represents a promising new frontier in suicide prevention and other research areas.

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Available from: Christopher Homan, Oct 01, 2015
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    • "Opinion mining and sentiment analysis techniques have also been applied in various fields [9], and increasing numbers of psychologists use social media search engines to find interesting patterns in suicidal entries, such as sentiment phrases, geographic location, etc. Vincent, et al., explored the relationship between suicide and sexual orientation [10]. Jared, et al., tracked data from Twitter to find out suicide risk difference between states [4]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Suicide is among the leading causes of death in China. However, technical approaches toward preventing suicide are challenging and remaining under development. Recently, several actual suicidal cases were preceded by users who posted microblogs with suicidal ideation to Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media network akin to Twitter. It would therefore be desirable to detect suicidal ideations from microblogs in real-time, and immediately alert appropriate support groups, which may lead to successful prevention. In this paper, we propose a real-time suicidal ideation detection system deployed over Weibo, using machine learning and known psychological techniques. Currently, we have identified 53 known suicidal cases who posted suicide notes on Weibo prior to their deaths.We explore linguistic features of these known cases using a psychological lexicon dictionary, and train an effective suicidal Weibo post detection model. 6714 tagged posts and several classifiers are used to verify the model. By combining both machine learning and psychological knowledge, SVM classifier has the best performance of different classifiers, yielding an F-measure of 68:3%, a Precision of 78:9%, and a Recall of 60:3%.
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    • "Another technique involving the use of online social networks has been increasingly used in the recruitment of hard-to-reach populations (Silenzio et al., 2009). Sifaneck and Neaigus have used the term targeted canvassing (TARC) to describe the method of advertising in newspapers and flyers (Sifaneck & Neaigus, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: To describe the problems encountered and resolved in the course of using respondent-driven sampling (RDS), targeted canvassing (TARC), and ethnographic fieldwork (EFW) to recruit ecstasy and/or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) users. Method: This study is nested within a larger project designed to investigate the course of drug use, sexual risk behaviors, and psychiatric comorbidities in 240 ecstasy/LSD users. Eligible participants were males and females with ages ranging from 18 to 39 years, who reported ecstasy and/or LSD use at least once during the 90 days prior to interview and were not under treatment for drug and alcohol problems. Strategies were implemented sequentially, over four-month time frames for each method, aiming at fulfilling study objectives. Results: The final sample included 174 participants (64.36% males). Eight (4.6%) were selected using RDS, 26 (14.94%) with TARC, and 140 (80.45%) using EFW. RDS recruited participants with a higher education level, employed, and with a higher monthly income. Conversely, a higher frequency of drug usage and a higher number of drugs ever used were evident among participants selected via EFW. Conclusions: Different recruitment techniques reached different types of participants. EFW showed the best performance, granting access to the largest number of participants and with a higher number of drugs ever used. Both RDS and TARC required more time to recruit participants and yielded a lower number of eligible subjects. Participants recruited via RDS had a higher socioeconomic level but also a shorter lifetime history of drug use.
    Addiction Research and Theory 12/2013; 22(5). DOI:10.3109/16066359.2013.867431 · 1.03 Impact Factor
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    • "This finding has obvious outreach and support implications. These results, combined with previous findings (Silenzio et al., 2009), indicate online help sites, specifically targeted at sexual minorities, could bring assistance to those least likely to ask for help. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present findings offer new perspectives on differences between suicide-risk heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning: LGBQ). Results from an anonymous online survey, employing standardized scales, showed that LGBQ participants reported significantly greater suicide-risk than heterosexuals. Seventy-nine matched pairs of suicide-risk LGBQ and heterosexuals were examined by individual suicide risk factors. Results showed no significant differences on separate measures of suicidal ideation; however, LGBQ participants were more likely to report suicide attempts, disclosure of suicidal intentions, and prediction of future suicide attempts. The LGBQ group also indicated greater likelihood of going online to develop new personal relationships. Multiple regression modeling was conducted to guide outreach and support efforts, revealing unique factors predicting help-seeking denial of suicide-risk LGBQ. Implications include the importance of online support and considering sexual minorities not just as a potential high-risk group, but also as a population with unique suicide risks and behaviors.
    Archives of Sexual Behavior 05/2013; 42(5). DOI:10.1007/s10508-013-0112-2 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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