Online Talk About Teen Suicide January 14, 2008Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Human Body, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.
Tags: community, online, suicide, teen
Although it can be a really uncomfortable topic for many people to talk about, it’s a major issue that needs a lot of attention. I’m talking about teen suicide.
Trying Something Different
Elaine Greidanus – a researcher at the University of Alberta – believes that teens are a group who can be tough to reach, especially through traditional means such as counselling or telephone support. She suggests that teens are more likely to be going online to find support. Her recent study set out to see just how helpful cyber support was for teens. She studied approximately a dozen participants in an online help site. Here, teens would create an anonymous thread. Trained volunteers would then respond to the teens with messages such as:
It sounds like you are in a lot of pain right now. What are some things that give you strength in your life?
Volunteers would also suggest resources to help the teen, such as a counsellor. One challenge for teens is that unlike adults, they may not be as likely to seek counselling as their initial step. By receiving information from the online thread, however, they can obtain some support that is followed up over the long-term by a counsellor.
Another helpful aspect that Greidanus noticed was how other teens provided support in the threads – not just the volunteers. Empathic statements such as ‘Stop hurting yourself. I care for you’ provided additional support to the distressed teens. These kinds of statements coupled with volunteer support helped teens to develop a relationship with their peers and feel a sense of community. Another very positive outcome was that teens who initially asked for support later went on to offer support to other teens. All of these changes suggest that online communities are a helpful way to access teens who would otherwise not have obtained help.
Ultimately, as uncomfortable as the topic of suicide may be, it’s a small discomfort compared to a loss of life. If online support forums are making a positive difference, then I hope that they continue to grow.
Update on 12 April 2009: I have decided to update this blog entry. It was made over a year ago but it is still receiving comments – many from young people who are struggling with the feelings of depression and suicide. It’s a painful subject and clearly a tough thing to talk about for a lot of people.
If you’re dealing with these feelings and don’t feel you have someone to speak with about what you’re going through, please contact your local crisis line. You may feel very alone and isolated but there are resources out there for you.
Canada: Kids Help Phone can be contacted at 1 800 668 6868
UK: Childline can be called on 0800 1111
USA: Hopeline connects you to a local crisis line via 1 800 784 2433