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Young People's Reasons for Feeling Suicidal: An Analysis of Posts to a Social Media Suicide Prevention Forum



Background: While considerable attention has been given to explanations for youth suicide, less is known about the reasons that young people themselves give for suicidality. Research on online communications gives an opportunity to investigate the real-time reasons young people give for feeling suicidal. Aims: This study aimed to identify the reasons that young people provide for feeling suicidal in posts published on a suicide prevention forum, hosted on the social media platform Tumblr. Method: We filtered 2 months' worth of posts to identify those that related specifically to suicide. In total, 210 posts were thematically analyzed to identify the reasons given for suicidality and the meanings associated with these. Results: Six main reasons for suicidality were identified in the analysis: feeling lonely and socially disconnected, experiencing identity stigma, failing to meet expectations, being helpless, feeling worthless, and experiences of mental ill-health. Limitations: There are advantages as well as limitations associated with relying on Internet-based data. Limitations include the inability to establish participant demographics and the lack of context for posts. Conclusion: Suicide prevention efforts should target the reasons that young people give for feeling suicidal in the moment of crisis in order to engage this population more effectively.
Crisis: The Journal of Crisis
Intervention and Suicide Prevention
Young People's Reasons for Feeling Suicidal: An Analysis
of Posts to a Social Media Suicide Prevention Forum
Aamina Ali and Kerry Gibson
Online First Publication, March 19, 2019.
Ali, A., & Gibson, K. (2019, March 19). Young People's Reasons for Feeling Suicidal: An Analysis of
Posts to a Social Media Suicide Prevention Forum. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and
Suicide Prevention. Advance online publication. 5910/a000580
© 2019 Hogrefe Publishing Crisis 2019
Research Trends
Young People’s Reasons for
An Analysis of Posts to a Social Media Suicide
Aamina Ali and Kerry Gibson
School of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Abstract. Background: While considerable attention has been given to explanations for youth suicide, less is known about the reasons that
young people themselves give for suicidality. Research on online communications gives an opportunity to investigate the real-time reasons
young people give for feeling suicidal. Aims: This study aimed to identify the reasons that young people provide for feeling suicidal in posts pub-
lished on a suicide prevention forum, hosted on the social media platform Tumblr. Method: We filtered 2 months’ worth of posts to identify those
that related specifically to suicide. In total, 210 posts were thematically analyzed to identify the reasons given for suicidality and the meanings
associated with these. Results: Six main reasons for suicidality were identified in the analysis: feeling lonely and socially disconnected, experi-
encing identity stigma, failing to meet expectations, being helpless, feeling worthless, and experiences of mental ill-health. Limitations: There
are advantages as well as limitations associated with relying on Internet-based data. Limitations include the inability to establish participant
demographics and the lack of context for posts. Conclusion: Suicide prevention efforts should target the reasons that young people give for
feeling suicidal in the moment of crisis in order to engage this population more effectively.
Keywords: suicide, youth, Internet, suicide prevention
Suicide is estimated to be the second leading cause of
death globally for individuals between the ages of  and
 World Health Organization, . Signicantly, for
every reported youth suicide death there are estimated to
be  reports of attempted suicide,  reports of med-
ical attention for attempted suicide, and  reports of
hospitalizations for attempted suicide Cutler, Glaeser, &
Norberg, .
Suicide prevention strategies often target risk factors as-
sociated with suicidality. This has led to the identication
of a range of risk factors for youth suicide, with an empha-
sis most recently on mental health problems, contagion
eects, and a range of socioeconomic factors Hawton,
Saunders, & O’Connor, . However, there is less re-
search that explores the reasons that young people them-
selves provide for feeling suicidal. Several researchers have
argued the importance of taking young people’s views into
account in order to engage them as active participants in
the prevention of suicide White, .
A variety of methods have been used to investigate
youth perspectives on suicide including surveys, focus
group discussions, and interviews Curtis, ; Gibson,
Wilson, Le Grice, & Seymour, ; Heled & Read, ;
Shilubane et al., ; Stubbing & Gibson, . The
limited research available suggests youth in general view
suicide as an understandable response to life’s diculties,
rather than a product of a mental health problem e.g.,
Lake, Kandasmy, Kleinman, & Gould, ; however,
this may be dierent for suicidal youth who have been re-
cruited through a mental health service Bennett, Coggan,
& Adams, . It is especially important to understand
how young people who have not accessed health servic-
es account for their suicidality given the high risks in this
group. Furthermore, while most existing studies rely on
retrospective recall, it is also crucial to develop knowledge
about young people’s real-time expressions of suicidality
in the moment of crisis in order to enhance prevention.
Suicide and the Internet
Recent research has highlighted the appeal of the Inter-
net as a medium for young people to express distress. The
Internet provides isolated youth with increased opportu-
nities to communicate Lewis, Heath, Michal, & Duggan,
 and the anonymity enables users to share personal
information with greater ease Suler, . This combi-
nation of factors has resulted in the Internet becoming the
A. Ali & K. Gibson, Reasons for Feeling Suicidal
© 2019 Hogrefe PublishingCrisis 2019
preferred medium for young people to discuss sensitive is-
sues such as suicide Baker & Fortune, . Inasmuch as
the Internet provides young people with a forum in which
to discuss suicide, it also provides a unique opportunity for
researchers to capture real-time expressions of suicidality.
In general, studies of youth engagement with suicide via
the Internet have focused much more on the dangers of
this, rather than the opportunities it provides to understand
young people’s perspectives on suicide Mok, Jorm, & Pirk-
is, . There are a surprisingly small number of studies
to date that explore young people’s expressions of suicid-
ality in online environments. Some researchers have ana-
lyzed Internet posts related to suicide more generally, but
have not focused on the reasons that people give for their
suicidality e.g., Cavazos-Rehg etal., ; Jashinsky etal.,
. We have only been able to identify two previous
studies that focused specically on the reasons youth of-
fer for their suicidality on Internet forums. Cash, Thelwall,
Peck, Ferrell, and Bridge  described a content anal-
ysis of  posts to a suicide forum on MySpace, concluding
that while the majority of posts did not specify a context for
suicidality, relationship diculties featured prominently in
those that did. However, the methodology used to identify
the relative frequency of dierent sets of reasons did not
allow for a fuller exploration of the meanings associated
with these. A second study that explored young people’s
posts to a Swedish chat forum identied a range of dicult
emotions implicated in suicide, with loneliness emerging
as a particularly important issue Westerlund, . The
ethnographic approach used in this study captured some
valuable insights but did not provide a systematic overview
of the range of reasons oered for suicidality. The current
study was designed to provide further knowledge about the
range of reasons young people give for feeling suicidal in
real time and the meanings they associated with these.
The key question addressed in this research is: What rea-
sons do young people provide for feeling suicidal on an
Internet suicide help forum? We adopted a social construc-
tionist approach to the study accepting that suicide may
take on dierent meanings at dierent times and for dif-
ferent groups Marsh, .
Data Collection
Data for this research were collated from a suicide preven-
tion forum hosted on Tumblr. While there are no restric-
tions on who can participate in Tumblr, recent statistics
indicate that  of Tumblr users worldwide are between
the ages of  and , the greatest share of younger users
among the top  social platforms Business Insider Aus-
tralia, . Usage by young men and women is estimat-
ed to be similar Statistica, . On the forum, queries
are submitted to moderators who vet these and publish
each request for help anonymously as a separate post. This
is accompanied by a reply from one of the volunteers who
identify as a non-mental health professional. The page is
open to the public, and is intended to serve as a resource
for both those who post to the forum and those who read it.
Initially  month’s worth of help-seeking posts were re-
viewed for suitable material but when this did not gener-
ate a sucient number of posts suitable for analysis, this
was extended to a -month period approximately 
posts. All the posts were read and re-read by the rst au-
thor before deciding which types of posts to include. Af-
ter discussion between the researchers it was decided to
include all of the following types of posts: statements that
explicitly stated an intention to end one’s life, for example,
“I want to kill myself”; statements in which the poster ac-
knowledged suicidal thoughts, for example, “I have been
thinking about suicide,” as well as statements expressing
passive suicidality for example, “I have nothing to live for.
All posts that related to nonsuicidal distress or third-party
concerns were excluded. This provided a nal sample size
of  posts, ranging from a single sentence to a lengthy
paragraph. While this sample size is relatively smaller than
that used in some other studies e.g., Cavazos-Rehg etal.,
, who code a much larger number of posts into prede-
termined content categories, the thematic analysis used
in this study does not lend itself to very large sample siz-
es. Sample size in this method is determined by saturation
Guest, Bunce, & Johnson, .
Data Analysis
The data were analyzed using Braun and Clarke’s 
guidelines for thematic analysis, which enables the iden-
tication and reporting of patterns within data. In this
analysis, we were guided by our research question, which
aimed to explore the reasons or contexts posts oered for
suicidality. Following conventions in this kind of qualita-
tive research, the rst author read and re-read the mate-
rial in order to become familiar with its content. She then
individually coded each post with the dierent reasons
for suicidality that were judged to be present in the post.
The second author then reviewed a random selection of
each identied code to strengthen the accuracy of coding.
Finally, both researchers conducted a careful process of
searching for commonalities and dierences between the
codes, which were then sorted into overarching themes
A. Ali & K. Gibson, Reasons for Feeling Suicidal 3
© 2019 Hogrefe Publishing Crisis 2019
which represented “some level of patterned response or
meaning within the data set” Braun & Clark, , p..
Once possible themes were identied from the dierent
codes, these themes were analyzed in comparison with the
raw data, to ensure the themes captured the most promi-
nent patterns in the dataset. The rigor of the analysis was
determined by criteria used in qualitative research includ-
ing careful documentation of the analytic process and a
reexive awareness of the researchers’ inuence on the re-
search Morrow, . To facilitate the latter, the themes
were discussed and debated between the two researchers
in a manner that draws from Hill and coworkers’ 
consensual qualitative analysis. In these discussions we
were conscious of our position as psychology professionals
and attempted to keep alert to interpretations that reected
priorities dierent to our own.
The qualitative descriptors of many, some, and few were
used in the analysis to indicate the prevalence of a theme
across the entire dataset Guest, Namey, & Mitchell, .
More specic frequency counts are not considered appro-
priate for thematic analysis, where the aim is to describe
the dataset rather than to imply statistical generalization.
Ethical Considerations
The Internet provides an opportunity for nonintrusive data
collection and analysis of material that is already in the
public domain. Although there are ethical challenges asso-
ciated with Internet research, there are fewer risks with the
current research in which the data come from anonymous
postings, as opposed to an interactive forum in which indi-
viduals might be able to be identied British Psychological
Society, . To further protect the identities of young
people posting on this forum, we removed any contextual-
ly identifying information from the posts, and also decid-
ed to exclude information about the specic time period
in which the posts were made. Consent to use posts from
this forum was obtained from the moderators of the forum,
and we acceded to their request not to name the forum. We
followed the guidelines of the University of Auckland Eth-
ics Committee, which did not require specic approval for
research using publicly available online data.
Feeling Lonely and Socially Disconnected
A prominent theme in the data was loneliness and the ab-
sence of a sense of connection to others. Many of the posts
that spoke about loneliness specically mentioned feeling
isolated from peers or lacking friendship. “I feel so alone.
I literally have no friends anymore. I just graduated high
school, and nobody that I thought was my friend talks to
me anymore. Literally nobody.” In some instances, writers
expressed also feeling isolated from their family: “I feel so
depressed and so suicidal. I’m all alone, I have no one to talk
to, I have no friends, my family doesn’t care about me.” Sev-
eral posts implied that loneliness was not simply about the
absence of others, but also feeling disconnected from those
who were there: “I have my family around me but I spend so
much of my time alone.” Loneliness was also often described
as a permanent rather than a temporary state: “I really don’t
want to be alive. I often feel very alone and I’m afraid it’ll
stay that way”. Many of the posters expressed a longing for
connection with others: “I really want someone to talk to and
give me a hug but I have no one … I’m so lonely. I don’t know
what to do.” A sense of loneliness and the absence of people
to talk to in meaningful ways emerged across the data as a
commonly expressed reason for feeling suicidal.
Experiencing Identity Stigma
Identity stigma was another notable theme in the data.
The majority of posts that reected this described stigma
related to the poster’s gender or sexuality. These posts of-
ten referred to active rejection from others, many of these
in the context of the family:
And my mom just keeps threatening me to kick me out – I’m
gay, she’s super religious who will try to take me to conversion
therapy or berate me until I attempt to date a guy…I feel so
lonely and so sad all the time and I just want it to stop.
In some cases, posters described distress at having to hide
their sexuality or gender from their families with the ex-
pectation that this would not be accepted:
I can’t come out of the closet as gay. If I do I risk losing my fam-
ily and my entire support system. I risk ruining my life. I don’t
want to do that. But I also don’t want to date guys and live a life
of lies. I don’t know how much more I can take of this life.
Many of these posts also conveyed the pain of internal-
ized stigma: “I will always be a freak and no one will love a
tranny freak. Drs don’t know how to deal with me and how
could they in a world that doesn’t want me?”
There were also a signicant number of posts that fo-
cused on aspects of the person’s physical body that were
seen to be unacceptable to others:
i just want to die. i cant leave my apartment anymore cos im fat
and ugly and its summer and everyone talks about how they’ve
lost their winter fat and i have gained so much this past year
and always get stared at by people.
A. Ali & K. Gibson, Reasons for Feeling Suicidal
© 2019 Hogrefe PublishingCrisis 2019
This theme captured the intense distress associated with
being subject to identity stigma in relation to gender, sexu-
ality, or the physical body.
Failing to Meet Expectations
Many posts portrayed distress about failing to meet expec-
tations. Often this was related to the everyday demands of
school or university as the following post exemplies:
I can’t handle all of this stress. My parents are on my ass about
it saying it’s my fault. I have  pages of homework due tomor-
row and its stressing me out so much its making me … wanna
kill myself what do I do?
Posters often emphasized their own feeling responsibility
for failing to meet these expectations:
I failed one my college classes and it’s making me feel like
complete shit and even suicidal... It was all my fault and I was
just simply too lazy to do any of the work. I feel like such a fuck-
ing failure.
While many of the posts in this theme related to academic
situations, others seemed to reect a concern that the post-
er had failed to meet more general social expectations: “I
have very big disapproval issues and i constantly feel as if
I’m not good enough.” In many cases the posts suggested
that young people were evaluating their own performance
against those of their peers: “Everyone is progressing more
than me. All my friends are learning to drive and I haven’t
even got my permit yet.” Posts in this theme highlighted
the distress that posters felt in their inability to match up to
what they believed was expected of them and the respon-
sibility they felt for failing to do this.
Being Helpless
Another dominant theme identied in the data related
to posters’ helplessness to change their situation. Many
posts started with an expression of helplessness such as:
“I don’t know what to do anymore...” In some instances,
posters elaborated on their inability to try to work out a
solution to their problems: “It feels so hopeless and di-
rectionless and I get so disheartened by the idea of trying
to gure things out and I often feel like I’d rather die than
face all of this.” While some posts expressed diculty
knowing what to do, many others posts reected young
people’s inability to change their circumstances by their
own eorts: “I waited  fucking years and endless tor-
ture to get through high school and i did, it’s been a year
since i graduated and life has if anything gotten worse.”
Posts in this theme reected strong feelings of helpless-
ness sometimes due to not knowing what to do, while
others reected the constraints on posters’ ability to alter
their circumstances.
Feeling Worthless
A strong theme present in the data was an expression of
worthlessness as a contributor to suicidal feelings. These
were expressed through statements of self-hatred: “I hate
myself. I consider myself to be a piece of shit. Lower than
it actually.” Some posts suggested specic reasons for
self-hatred such as a person’s weight or other physical fea-
tures: “I’ve always struggled with self-esteem… my body
is still disgusting.” In some cases, this self-loathing was
attributed to the physical gender of their body not repre-
senting the gender with which they identied: “why am i
expected to go through an entire lifetime looking at some-
thing i hate in the mirror, something that stole my life?”
A number of posts reected the poster’s view that they
could not contribute to the world in a meaningful way,
for example: “I feel like I can’t contribute anything to this
world. I’m talentless. I can’t draw, write, sing nor play any
instruments.” This theme often contained intense expres-
sions of self-loathing.
Experiences of Mental Ill-Health
Although less predominant than other themes, posts also
sometimes mentioned a mental health problem as a rea-
son for feeling suicidal. Some posts contained talk of issues
relating to a specic diagnosis, most often, depression:
My depressions getting worse because I no longer know how
to be happy, no matter how hard I try. My thoughts are getting
stronger, I have a really strong urge to both cut and kill myself.
In some cases, the poster’s distress seemed to have been
exacerbated because they felt their mental health prob-
lems were not taken seriously by others:
she suddenly felt the need to say that ... i am just making up my
problems. i was diagnosed with bpd, severe depression, ocd,
social anxiety and more, but apparently i am just making this
up…i just want to kill myself.
Importantly, in this theme, posters often seemed to have
diagnosed their own problems rather than relying on a
professional opinion, as the following post suggests: “For
the past  years I’ve been going through depression. It’s on
and o. I haven’t talked to anyone about it. I haven’t got
any professional help on it either.” Mental health problems
A. Ali & K. Gibson, Reasons for Feeling Suicidal 5
© 2019 Hogrefe Publishing Crisis 2019
were implicated in posters feelings of suicidality in a varie-
ty of ways including as a source of distress in themselves as
well as well as in response to the reactions of others.
This study identied a range of issues that posters provid-
ed as reasons for their suicidality. Loneliness and a lack of
connection with others emerged as a key issue for young
people wanting to end their lives. This is consistent with
other research that notes the importance of belonging
for young people, and the absence of this as a risk to their
well-being Schinka, VanDulmen, Bossarte, & Swahn,
. This also coincides with Westerlund’s  anal-
ysis of postings to a Swedish Internet forum. While lone-
liness is a signicant risk factor for suicide, it may feature
particularly on Internet forums that provide an important
source of support for otherwise isolated youth Lewis,
Heath, Michal & Duggan, . These ndings highlight
the importance of meaningful relationships for young peo-
ple, also found in Cash and colleagues’  analysis of a
smaller sample of posts on MySpace.
Being subject to identity stigma also featured strongly
in these posts. Unsurprisingly, this analysis highlights the
particular challenges for young people with stigmatized
gender or sexual identities that contribute to the high su-
icide rates among this group McDermott & Roen, .
Young people may also be particularly sensitive to social
stigma related to their physical appearance Puhl & King,
; Troop-Gordon, .
While research often highlights negative life events in
accounting for suicidality, there is increasing recognition of
the insidious pressure and high expectations that are part of
young people’s lives in contemporary societies Furlong &
Cartmel, . The ndings of this research highlight the
pressures that young people face in their lives and the sense
of failure that goes with not being able to meet the expecta-
tions of those around them. This external pressure seems to
be mirrored in the nding that posters to this forum appeared
to be preoccupied by their own inadequacies. Campos, Bess-
er, Abreu, Parreira, and Blatt  note that young people
may be particularly self-critical and be inclined to blame
themselves for diculties rather than blame external factors.
Feelings of helplessness also appear to be prominent in
the expression of suicidality, which is consistent with ex-
isting literature Portes, Sahndhu, & Grice, . Young
people may lack the resources to deal with life’s challenges
and, importantly, often also lack the power to change their
circumstances Baker, .
Mental health problems emerged as a less prominent
theme than others. While it may be that the emotional ex-
periences e.g., helplessness, hopelessness, low self-worth
posters described are indicative of mental health problems,
young people may not always understand their suicidality
in this way. This supports other research suggesting young
people do not see suicidality as a form of pathology e.g.,
Bennett etal., ; Heled & Read, . Some posters
did, however, attribute their suicidal feelings to a diagnosis
and seemed sometimes to use this as a way of seeking le-
gitimacy for their distress.
While the Internet provides unique opportunities to in-
vestigate real-time expressions of suicidality, there are
also limitations associated with this mode of data collec-
tion. Although most Tumblr users are thought to be young
people, this cannot be conrmed. Furthermore, the Inter-
net allows users to be selective of what information they
would like to reveal or hide, which may limit the relevance
of these ndings to nonvirtual settings. Additionally, the
lack of opportunity to explore beyond the relatively brief
information contained in postings further constrains the
ndings of this study. These ndings may also have limit-
ed relevance for other social media forums, not specically
designed to provide help for young people who are suicidal.
While this research does not detract from the value of risk
factors already identied in mainstream literature on su-
icide prevention, it gives important insights into reasons
that young people themselves ascribe to feeling suicidal
at the moment in which they experience this. This study
provides insight into the real-time expressions of suici-
dality and may provide useful information about how to
engage young people in crisis. As other researchers have
noted, it is important to increase the relevance of suicide
prevention to young people by addressing concerns that
seem salient to them. Suicide prevention eorts aimed at
reaching young people who are at immediate risk of sui-
cide may benet from focusing on loneliness, identity stig-
ma, pressure to meet academic and social expectations,
and feelings of helplessness or worthlessness. Prevention
programs should use language that speaks directly to these
experiences and emotions associated with them.
The openness that young people demonstrate in talking
about suicide online also suggests the value of approaches
that reach them via this medium Best, Manktelow, & Tay-
lor, . Online prevention resources might talk directly
A. Ali & K. Gibson, Reasons for Feeling Suicidal
© 2019 Hogrefe PublishingCrisis 2019
to young people’s identied reasons for feeling suicidal,
for example, by letting them know that they are not alone,
that dierence is acceptable, or by challenging unrealis-
tic expectations of achievement in this age group. Suicide
prevention may have something to learn from the informal
online support resources, often developed by young people
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Received February 20, 2018
Revision Received October 19, 2018
Accepted October 19, 2018
Published online March 19, 2019
Aamina Ali is completing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the
University of Auckland, New Zealand. This study formed part of her
honors degree in psychology.
Kerry Gibson is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor
in the School of Psychology at the University of Auckland, New
Kerry Gibson
School of Psychology
University of Auckland
New Zealand
... Mumsnet has also been the focus of research studying the topics of motherhood and entrepreneurship (Makola, 2022). Scholars have also studied non-suicidal-self-injury (Eliseo-Arras et al., 2019), suicidal ideation (Ali & Gibson, 2019;Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2017), and eating disorders (Gies & Martino, 2014) on the public picture and comment sharing platform Tumblr. ...
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The global scale of Covid-19 has constrained academics from conducting much person-facing research. Reactively, trend is increasing for digital-based methodologies capturing already existing online data. Scholars often ‘scrape’ user-postings from internet forums using coding algorithms and text capture tools, before analysing data, drawing conclusions and publishing findings. The online social news aggregation and discussion website Reddit is a particularly rich source of data for researchers. The public nature of Reddit materials may suggest rationale for user-data to be replicated, analysed and archived; indefinitely and in multiple locations, for scholarly research. However, this position overlooks several key ethical considerations. This paper presents an overview and explanation of Reddit, followed by an exploration of studies that use Reddit-acquired data. Arising ethical issues are discussed, and solutions to salient dilemmas presented. This is to enhance awareness of potential problems and improve protections for those whose data is unknowingly used for research.
... Due to the stigma associated with suicide, ethical concerns, and young people's reluctance to seek support for their difficulties, only a few studies provide direct access to "in the moment" experiences of suicidality. Although some recent research on internet forums has captured more direct expressions of suicidality in the moment they are felt, the data is often limited by the constraints of the platform on which the young people are communicating (35)(36)(37)(38). In order to refine suicide prevention in this age group, it is vital to understand young people's own experiences of suicidality (17,29). ...
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Background Youth suicide is a major international concern and prevention is a priority. In most cases suicidal behavior would be preceded by a period of suicidal ideation. Although feeling suicidal is recognized as a risk factor for suicide, there is little research which captures young people's own experience of suicidality in a moment of crisis. Aims This study aimed to explore young people's own accounts of their suicidality in the moment in which they experienced it. Method This qualitative study examined clients' experience of suicidality as communicated during a text message helpline counseling interaction. The data consisted of 125 text transcripts of an interaction during which a client was experiencing suicidality. These were obtained from a New Zealand based youth helpline service. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings The analysis showed that clients' experienced suicidality as a normal part of their life; that it was understood as a form of coping and that it was seen as a legitimate way to communicate distress. Clients described rapid fluctuations in the intensity of their suicidality and a feeling of being out of control. Despite this, they also communicated ambivalence about acting on their suicidality, and a recognition of the need to get help. Conclusions This study offered unique insights into young people's experience of suicidality and opens up opportunities for prevention. It underlines the importance of identifying chronic suicidality early and providing intervention and support prior to a suicidal crisis. The findings point to the potential that text counseling services might have in providing support to young people who are experiencing suicidality in the moment that they need this.
... Social media sites are commonly used as a space for users to discuss suicidal feelings and receive peer support (Ali & Gibson, 2019;Carey et al., 2018;Wiggins et al., 2016), making them a promising platform for suicide prevention. Rice et al. (2016) argue that social media is uniquely suited for interventions that increase social connectedness and diminish feelings of isolation, which are considered to be major risk factors for suicide. ...
Background: There is a need to develop new ways to reach and engage people at risk for suicidal behavior. Suicide prevention outreach on social media (SPOSM) represents a promising strategy, and trained volunteers could potentially provide the needed human resources. Aims: We aimed to investigate users' perception of SPOSM delivered by volunteers of the Israeli Sahar organization and its potential to promote help-seeking behavior. Methods: Outreach messages written by Sahar volunteers between July 2015 and June 2020 in response to suicidal posts on a social media site were screened. User responses were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: One hundred sixteen user responses were analyzed. Positive impact themes were identified in 69.8% of responses, while 16.4% of responses mentioned barriers to care and 10.3% were negative. Limitations: As the study is based on real-life data, the data are limited to users who chose to respond to outreach. Conclusion: The findings suggest that volunteer-based SPOSM is viewed positively by many users and may foster help-seeking behavior. The findings also outline challenges such as emotional barriers to care and privacy concerns.
... A cursory PubMed review of recently published research on youth suicide offers a wide array of ages studied ranging from those aged 5-17 (Bridge et al., 2018), 10-19 (Knopov, . Similarly, young people may refer to those 24 years old or younger (Robinson, Too, Pirkis, & Spittal, 2016) or to a more delimited cohort between the ages of 16 and 24 (Ali & Gibson, 2019). Miron, Yu, Wilf-Miron, and Kohane (2019) refer to youth as those aged 15-24 years, and, as if to further confuse matters, in the same report describe those aged 20-24 years as young adults, a group defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in one study as being 18-24 years old, given that the USFDA defines adolescents as those aged 12-17! ...
... Most researchers have chosen to focus narrowly on support interactions on one specific platform or forum e.g. YouTube (Naslund et al., 2014), Facebook (Lerman et al., 2017, or Tumblr (Ali & Gibson, 2019). This, however, may not capture the more dynamic way that young people use multiple social media platforms to communicate. ...
Online interventions are viewed as having great potential for reaching youth in distress, but little is actually known about how well these interventions fit with young people's own priorities and practices with online support. This New Zealand-based research explored young people's use of social media to give and receive support in informal, peer networks. Data was collected through digital instant messaging interviews with 21 young people aged 16–21 years. A thematic analysis identified a range of priorities participants had for engaging in support online. These included the importance of establishing emotional safety; picking up subtle cues for distress; allowing the open expression of emotion; showing care; being tactful and sensitive to needs of others and developing on-going relationships. Those designing online interventions for youth in distress can learn from the way that young people already give and receive support online. Recognising the importance that young people give to trusting relationships as a prerequisite for engagement with online support has important implications for the development of interventions which can connect with young people.
Research has indicated that youth are active users of social media, and often use the platforms to learn about, share experiences, and support others on mental health topics. Accordingly, social media offers a series of platforms ideal for mental health promotion campaigns. The Self Appreciation Project (SAP) was an exploratory campaign in March to June 2021, examining how individuals engage with mental health promotion on Instagram and Twitter. Through 43 infographic-style posts, the SAP accounts shared statistics and research on mental health and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) in youth. The posts also explored self-care strategies and encouragement aiming to increase followers’ self-efficacy. The Twitter and Instagram accounts were successful in gaining a following, totalling 488 followers, and can be considered to provide suitable platforms to mental health promotion campaigns. Users on the two platforms showed a distinct difference in engagement with the two styles of posts. Instagram followers (392) showed a preference for positive, advocacy-based content, while the Twitter followers (92) showed no preference based on categorization. The Project also illustrated a reluctance of followers to engage in discussions within the comments sections. Hashtags and promotions were identified as useful tools in gaining attention and followers to the Project accounts. The study did not examine the uptake or lived impact of the knowledge and resources shared within the infographics.
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Adolescents’ emotional changes will have a huge impact on themselves; perhaps, they do not understand themselves. However, according to research, many behaviors of adolescents are often accompanied by emotional changes, and the occurrence of these changes will also bring about their unconsciousness. This article first introduces the research background, significance, and development status of smart home sensors and young people’s emotions at home and abroad. This article then gives a detailed introduction to the Python language, intelligent sensor networks, and real-time analysis of youth emotions. In the introduction, it mainly explains the design of the intelligent sensor network system and introduces the system architecture and software and hardware design of the wireless sensor network in detail. In the hardware part, it mainly gives a brief overview of information collection, data transmission, and data processing. In the software part, the embedded software design of three types of network nodes and the control center software design based on Python are given. Finally, the neural network algorithm is used to realize the real-time analysis of young people’s emotions, and the recognition rate of multiple algorithms and the data situation of multiple emotional factors are tested at the same time. The results show that the highest recognition rate of 58.4% can be achieved on the validation set of the HAPPEI database after preprocessing, which is higher than the recognition result obtained by directly training the network using the training set of the HAPPEI database.
Social media has provided an important forum in which young people can express distress and seek support from their online peer networks. This study aimed to develop a typology of supportive and unsympathetic responses to expressions of distress in youth social media networks. An online survey was conducted with 385 university students (aged 17–21 years old) in which they were asked to provide examples of supportive responses, and unsympathetic responses to distress, which they had observed or experienced in their social media networks. Content analysis was used to identify emergent thematic categories, and to describe and code the frequency of examples within these categories. The analysis showed supportive responses included encouragement (37%), offering to talk (32%), giving practical help (14%), and sharing personal experiences (6%). The thematic categories among unsympathetic responses included minimising the distress (44%), making jokes (20%), blaming the person (19%), and encouraging self-harm (2%). The analysis highlights the importance of recognising the particular kinds of responses that young people perceive as supportive and unsympathetic. This introduces new dimensions to existing typologies of social support and might inform interventions aimed at improving emotional safety for young people who seek support through peer networks on social media.
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Objectives In the Netherlands, there was a sharp increase in the number of suicides among 10- to 19-year-olds in 2017. A multi-method psychological autopsy study (PA) was conducted to assess feasibility, identify related factors, and study the interplay of these factors to inform suicide prevention strategies. Methods Coroners identified youth suicides in 2017 in their records and then general practitioners (GPs) contacted the parents of these youths. Over a period of 7 months, 66 qualitative interviews were held with the parents, peers, and teachers, providing information on precipitating factors and five topics involving 35 cases (17 boys and 18 girls, mean age 17 years). Furthermore, 43 parents and care professionals filled in questionnaires to examine risk and care–related factors. Qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed. Results Although registration problems faced by coroners and resistance to contacting bereaved families by GPs hampered the recruitment, most parents highly appreciated being interviewed. Several adverse childhood experiences played a role at an individual level, such as (cyber) bullying, parental divorce, sexual abuse, as well as complex mental disorders, and previous suicide attempts. Two specific patterns stood out: (1) girls characterized by insecurity and a perfectionist attitude, who developed psychopathology and dropped out of school, and (2) boys with a developmental disorder, such as autism, who were transferred to special needs education and therefore felt rejected. In addition, adolescents with complex problems had difficulty finding appropriate formal care. Regarding potential new trends, contagion effects of social media use in a clinical setting and internet use for searching lethal methods were found. Conclusion This first national PA study showed that, as expected, a variety of mostly complex clusters of problems played a role in youth suicides. An infrastructure is needed to continuously monitor, evaluate, and support families after each youth suicide and thereby improve prevention strategies.
Background International research shows that media can increase knowledge, raise public awareness and reduce stigma relating to mental health. Methods Following the broadcast of a documentary on national television featuring interviews with young people who had experienced mental health difficulties and suicidal behaviour, an anonymous online survey, aimed at examining public perceptions of the impact of a television documentary, was conducted, using a mixed methods approach. Results 2311 people completed the survey. Of those who watched the documentary and answered the closed questions ( n = 854), 94% stated that the documentary will positively impact young people’s mental health and well-being. The majority (91%) stated that the documentary will encourage young people to talk to someone if experiencing difficulties and 87% indicated it will help to reduce stigma associated with mental health. Viewers had a 5% higher level of intention to seek help than non-viewers. Participants indicated that the identifiable personal stories and discourse around stigma and shame, and the increased understanding and awareness gained, had the most profound impact on them. Conclusions These findings indicate that a documentary addressing mental health and suicidal behaviour, which incorporates real life identifiable stories of resilience and recovery, has the potential to impact positively on emotional well-being and general mood, to reduce stigma related to mental health and to encourage help-seeking behaviour. Documentaries including these concepts, with a public mental health focus and a consistent message, incorporating pre- and post-evaluations, and customisation for target audiences in compliance with current media recommendations, should be considered.
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New Zealand has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world and dominant approaches to prevention do not always take into account the views of young people. The purpose of this research was to update our understanding of young people's explanations of suicide in order to inform suicide prevention efforts. Focus groups were conducted with 38 young people, including 30 young women and 8 young men aged 15–22. The data was analysed thematically to identify the range of explanations young people ascribe to youth suicide. Five themes were identified by the analysis including that suicide could be explained by inescapable difficulties, constant pressure, emotional distress and could also be seen as a cry for help. In contrast to these normalised experiences, participants also expressed the view that mental illness might also account for suicide. The findings suggest that young people recognise suicide as a complex problem with multiple causes. While they recognised mental health problems as contributing, youth suicide was primarily understood by young people as a normal response to emotional distress and pressure. Prevention programmes should address the full range of explanations that young people give for suicide in order to promote their engagement in prevention programmes.
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Suicide prevention strategies include attempts to control information young people receive about suicide, but digital communication provides young people with alternative forums to engage with this issue. This article explores the constraints and opportunities for youth to talk about suicide in New Zealand. A thematic analysis of data from focus groups with young people suggests they resist what they see as a taboo on talking about suicide, see adults as unwilling to engage in conversations with them about suicide, and are reluctant to seek help for suicide from mental health professionals. They prefer to talk about suicide with peers, although there are challenges with doing this in person. Access to digital communication may provide young people with alternative forums to communicate about suicide which further undermines their willingness to engage with adults on the subject. This has led to a gap in communication between youth and adults on suicide.
Since Dan Olweus's seminal work on bullying in the 1970's (Olweus, 1978), there has been a concerted effort by investigators to identify the confluence of factors that contribute to peer victimization and its role in psychosocial development. Although the cause and consequences of peer victimization may include underlying, age-invariant processes, the manifestation of these factors is, in part, driven by the developmental stage being studied. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of peer victimization requires an explicit developmental perspective. This paper examines how peer victimization in adolescence is unique from other developmental periods. Changes in the nature of peer victimization, associated risk factors, the contexts in which victimization is experienced, and the psychosocial outcomes affected are addressed. A primary focus is how maturational processes and interpersonal contexts characteristic of adolescence contribute to changes in victimization, with the objective of informing future research directions and the development of effective interventions.
Background: Social networking about depression can be indicative of self-reported depression and/or can normalize risk behaviors such as self-harm and suicidal ideation. Aim: To gain a better understanding of the depression, self-harm, and suicidal content that is being shared on Tumblr. Method: From April 16 to May 10, 2014, 17 popular depression-related Tumblr accounts were monitored for new posts and engagement with other Tumblr users. A total of 3,360 posts were randomly selected from all historical posts from these accounts and coded based on themes ascertained by the research team. Results: The 17 Tumblr accounts posted a median number of 185 posts (range = 0-2,954). Content was engaged with (i.e., re-blogged or liked) a median number of 1,677,362 times (range = 0-122,186,504). Of the 3,360 randomly selected posts, 2,739 (82%) were related to depression, suicide, or self-harm. Common themes were self-loathing (412, 15%), loneliness/feeling unloved (405, 15%), self-harm (407, 15%), and suicide (372, 14%). Conclusion: This study takes an important first step at better understanding the displayed depression-related references on Tumblr. The findings signal a need for suicide prevention efforts to intervene on Tumblr and use this platform in a strategic way, given the depression and suicidal content that was readily observed on Tumblr.
This book addresses the fundamental question of why young people whose sexualities and genders are marginalised may become distressed and sometimes harm themselves. Youth who are minoritised in relation to sexuality or gender identity can face a range of embodied, emotional, discursive and material challenges. These challenges are sometimes evoked in explanations for suicide and self-harm among queer(ed) young people. Previous studies in this field have often asked, how many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth self-harm? Many have asked, what are the risk factors for LGBT youth suicide and self-harm? We take the inquiry deeper, focusing on a wide range of queer(ed) youth, and addressing questions about norms, emotions and embodiment. We are specifically interested in both the material and the discursive conditions through which it comes to make sense to some queer(ed) youth to harm their bodies. We are concerned with the ‘incredible weight of cultural obligation that makes specific claims on the subjectivities of young people — to act in accordance with certain norms, to make a “success” of one’s life and avoid “failure” at all costs’ (Fullagar, 2003: 292).
The present article discusses intimate conversations about suicide that are pursued on the Internet. Computer-mediated communication has made it possible for participants to remain anonymous and, simultaneously, enter into a public space to share personal thoughts about a stigmatized and taboo subject. This has also created new and unique opportunities to study a type of communication that was previously very difficult to access. Most of the participants on the studied forum are teenagers or young adults who communicate based on a need to recognize themselves in others, and to receive acknowledgement for their thoughts, feelings and experiences, thereby gaining acceptance and understanding. However, there are also destructive elements in the form of an exchange of suicide methods and participants exhorting each other to go ahead with their suicide plans. Moreover, participants are able to practise suicide behaviour in a mediated, conversational form, thereby making the act seem less fearful. The participants are furthermore involved in constructing and re-constructing a counter-discourse in which established society's perceptions and values concerning suicide are questioned, as expressed in a critique against public institutions, mainly psychiatry.
Offering a new way of understanding the high self-harm and suicide rates among sexual and gender minority youth, this book prioritises the perspectives and experiences of queer young people, including those who have experience of self-harming and/or feeling suicidal. Presenting analysis based on research carried out with young people both online and face-to-face, the authors offer a critical perspective on the role of norms, namely developmental norms, gender and sexuality norms, and neoliberal norms, in the production of self-harming and suicidal youth. Queer Youth, Suicide and Self-Harm is unique in the way it works at the intersection of class and sexuality, and in its specific focus on transgender youth and the concept of embodied distress. It also examines the implications of this research for self-harm reduction and suicide prevention.
To systematically review research on how people use the Internet for suicide-related reasons and its influence on users. This review summarises the main findings and conclusions of existing work, the nature of studies that have been conducted, their strengths and limitations, and directions for future research. An online search was conducted through PsycINFO, PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE and CINAHL databases for papers published between 1991 and 2014. Papers were included if they examined how the Internet was used for suicide-related reasons, the influence of suicide-related Internet use, and if they presented primary data, including case studies of Internet-related suicide attempts and completions. Findings of significant relationships between suicide-related search trends and rates of suicide suggest that search trends may be useful in monitoring suicide risk in a population. Studies that examine online communications between people who are suicidal can further our understanding of individuals' suicidal experiences. While engaging in suicide-related Internet use was associated with higher levels of suicidal ideation, evidence of its influence on suicidal ideation over time was mixed. There is a lack of studies directly recruiting suicidal Internet users. Only case studies examined the influence of suicide-related Internet use on suicidal behaviours, while no studies assessed the influence of pro-suicide or suicide prevention websites. Online professional services can be useful to suicide prevention and intervention efforts, but require more work in order to demonstrate their efficacy. Research has shown that individuals use the Internet to search for suicide-related information and to discuss suicide-related problems with one another. However, the causal link between suicide-related Internet use and suicidal thoughts and behaviours is still unclear. More research is needed, particularly involving direct contact with Internet users, in order to understand the impact of both informal and professionally moderated suicide-related Internet use. © The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2015.
The research literature consistently indicates that self-criticism is related to suicidality. Evidence for the role of dependency, however, is more controversial. This study examines the extent to which these personality vulnerabilities are mediated by psychological distress in the prediction of suicidality. As part of a study of adolescent psychopathology, a sample of 260 Portuguese adolescents (148 [56.9 %] female and 112 [43.1%] male), ranging in age from 15 to 18 years (M = 16.32, SD = 1.19) completed measures of personality, suicidal behavior, and current distress, in counterbalanced order. The measures were: self-criticism and dependency from the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire for Adolescents; two psychological distress scales, social withdrawal from the Youth Self Report and depression from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale; and a measure of suicidality from the Suicide Behaviors Questionnaire Revised. Structural equation modeling indicated that self-criticism and dependency were both significantly associated with suicidality. Psychological distress, however, as measured by withdrawal and depression, fully mediated these relationships, but did not moderate them. The authors conclude that adolescents with higher levels of self-criticism and dependency are at greater risk for experiencing intense psychological distress-high levels of social withdrawal and depression-that account for their vulnerability to suicide risk.