Internet Forums for Suicide Bereavement: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Users

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Abstract

Background: Bereavement by suicide is associated with a number of consequences including poor mental health outcomes and increased suicide risk. Despite this, the bereaved by suicide may be reluctant to seek help from friends, family, and professionals. Internet forums and social networking sites are a popular avenue of support for the bereaved, but to date there is a lack of research into their use and efficacy. Aims: To survey users of suicide bereavement Internet forums and Facebook groups regarding their help-seeking behaviors, use of forums, and perceived benefits and limitations of such use. Method: This study employed a cross-sectional design in which users of suicide bereavement Internet forums and Facebook groups completed an anonymous online survey. Results: Participants were 222 users of suicide bereavement Internet forums. Most participants (93.2%) had sought face-to-face help from sources other than Internet forums, but were more likely to seek help in the near future from informal rather than formal sources. Forums were perceived as highly beneficial and there were few limitations. Limitations: The generalizability of these results to other internet forums may be limited. Additionally, we were not able to examine differences between forums in terms of quality or user-reported efficacy. Finally, the data reflects the subjective views of forum users, which may differ from the views of moderators or experts. Conclusion: Internet forums, including Facebook groups, appear to be a useful adjunct to face-to-face help-seeking for supporting those who have been bereaved by suicide.

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