There are no easy solutions to reaching and supporting people at serious risk of suicide or self-harm. Public health organisations have turned to a range of digital tools to address these risks and offer avenues for support.
This report maps the activity and characteristics of individuals who engage with beyondblue’s Suicidal thoughts and self-harm forum, one of twelve heavily subscribed forums hosted on the organisation’s website. This work provides an evidence base that can be used to maintain, improve and replicate these services to better reach people vulnerable to serious mental health risks.
While people generally find it difficult to talk about suicide and the contexts that lead to it, this report shows that there is a deep need and great capacity for supportive conversations among peers, and these can be facilitated by online community platforms.
Analysis of activity over a month generated five key insights:
Members of the Suicidal Thoughts forum are younger than members of beyondblue’s forums as a whole (15-34-year-old majority group, vs 35-54-year-old)
New members most often post threads at times of crisis, with a focus on ‘not coping’, or feeling ‘lost’ or ‘hopeless’, and present with multiple concurrent and long-term mental health conditions
Relationships are central to the concerns and context of those dealing with suicidal thoughts
Supportive interactions are led and maintained by a minority of key intermediaries or peer mentors, many but not all of whom have taken on an official role as Community Champion
The impact of the forum as a whole, and the influence of key peer mentors and supportive participants is observed, and includes evidence of positive behaviour change. Stated benefits range from having 24/7 access to peers who understand the difficulties of mental ill-health, to the ongoing guidance of “expert” peer mentors, and gaining actionable strategies that can make a difference
beyondblue and Swinburne Social Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology 2018