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Crisis. 2008;29(3):118-22.

Understanding self-harm and suicide websites: a qualitative interview study of young adult website users.

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East London & City Mental Health Trust, London, UK.


Self-harm and suicide websites have been heavily criticized both in the literature and the wider media, despite the fact that very little is known about them. To date, no study has interviewed users of these sites about them. This qualitative study aims to explore the accounts of young adults who engage in self-harming and suicidal behaviors and use websites dedicated to these issues, in order to develop a broader understanding of these websites and to identify potential implications for future research. In-depth interviews were conducted via e-mail with 10 participants, who were recruited directly from self-harm and suicide websites. Using discourse analysis, we identified three main ways in which participants wrote about the sites. They constructed them as sources of empathy and understanding, as communities, and as a way of coping with social and psychological distress. These discourses gave users access to important, socially valued identities, such as being understood, belonging to a community and coping with their problems. If health professionals and researchers hope to understand people who use self-harm and suicide websites, and engage them in their services, they must take a more balanced view and not focus solely on the possible risks associated with using such sites.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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