An Analysis of Depression, Self-Harm, and Suicidal Ideation Content on Tumblr


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Abstract

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.

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