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Case study of posts before and after a suicide on a Swedish internet forum

  • Michael Westerlund (a1), Gergö Hadlaczky (a2) and Danuta Wasserman (a2)
Summary

Websites and discussion forums have become an important and sometimes controversial source of information on suicide. Using a case report, our aim was to examine the responses, attitudes and beliefs that were communicated on a forum before, during and after a suicide act. We undertook two related analyses: a qualitative investigation of the messages that were posted before the suicide and a combined qualitative–quantitative analysis of the messages posted during and after the suicide. Nearly half the posted messages before the suicide encouraged the victim to complete the suicidal act, and a surprising number of posts after the suicide expressed excitement, although around half of the posts considered the suicide to be tragic. It is of great importance to increase awareness of suicide signals and understanding about how to respond to individuals who communicate suicide intentions on different forums on the internet.

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Copyright
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) licence.
Corresponding author
Michael Westerlund, Stockholm University, IMS/JMK, Postbox 27 861, SE-115 93, Stockholm, Sweden. Email: michael.westerlund@ims.su.se
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Case study of posts before and after a suicide on a Swedish internet forum

  • Michael Westerlund (a1), Gergö Hadlaczky (a2) and Danuta Wasserman (a2)
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eLetters

Thank you for this helpful and wise article, but...

Amy S. Linn, journalist, Alicia Patterson Foundation
11 January 2016

I also wondered if a next step might be finding out whether online suicides, particularly when read by teenagers, contributes to "suicide clusters" that are sometimes seen in American high schools. A recent suicide by a young gay woman in Canada contributed enormous anxiety in the internet community, for example, and I believe it might have instilled the thought among depressed teens that the way to become a martyr, of sorts, was to commit suicide. It was a political statement, a kind of call to arms. I think teens are hearing more and more about suicide, as well. Tumblr goes viral when a transsexual or gay young person commits suicide, and there is much grief and angst about it. The response is very personal. People act as if they "knew" the deceased and mourn them. It is an odd and sad and troubling dynamic all around, bringing suicide into the lives of strangers and creating so much misery and sadism, even. At least that's what it sounds like your research found. At any rate, congratulations on this. It's such an important topic. ... More

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