It has been quite some time now since Dr Jane Derges sat in my front room and asked me questions about my internet usage when I was feeling suicidal. It was a really interesting conversation and while Dr Derges had some very specific questions, unlike other studies I have taken part in it was a much more free-flowing conversation.
I’ve recently been sent the results of this study and I wanted to share this with you guys, they are so interesting and as most of you, like me, have experienced suicidal feelings and have turned to the internet for help, or even ideas, at some time or you may find what they found in this study of interest.
I’m going to summarise the things I found most interesting in the post but I’ll also link to the summary document from the University of Bristol so if you want to read it in more detail you can.
When people were in a low level of distress the results discus how people would browse suicide related content online or look for opportunities to communicate with people online but they wouldn’t have success finding formal help online and often the content they found wouldn’t help to calm the feelings.
I think many of us have been here, feeling vulnerable and looking for help and not being able to find it. I know there is help, or at the least links to phone numbers available but being able to find it when you need it is almost impossible. Maybe our brains switch off in terms of knowing how to search logically online but finding the right charities, or organisations for support just slips you by.
The results also discuss that in the higher distress levels people bypass looking for help and support and go straight to looking at methods of suicide. They say approximately half had tried had tried ideas/methods they had read about online which is a lot and it’s scary that so much information is available online around how to take your life. I’ve certainly researched methods and used information I have gathered online, and I know from my own experiences that there is far too much information available to people.
I’m particularly interested that so many people talked about how they use the internet in these situations to connect with other people. This role of information peer support shows that peers are a huge part of keeping people well. Certainly in forums and in communities there needs to be careful moderation of these conversations to ensure they are just supportive conversations and not sharing of ideas and techniques for suicide. I’m not sure how they can be monitored on social media but maybe there is a way. Certainly for me I get a lot of support from my peers on social media and I don’t know what I would do without their support sometimes. I also used to have a formal Peer Worker through my mental health team who was equally supportive in these situations.
Quite closely related to this, the charity I volunteer at, Second Step, is running a peer support research project to show the value of peer support to service users. I’m keen to see the results of this over time as it has been so valuable to me I think it’s important for there to be some quantitative data to prove it.
Overall, I’m not surprised by any of the findings in this project but as with all research projects it’s important for the research to have been done so that the information is out there.
If you want to read the results for yourself the findings are here..