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Having No One to Turn to: Shame and Suicide in an Online Community

Sat, August 11, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 4, 407

Abstract

Considering the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and an increasing global awareness of suicide, this study posits that individuals are seeking support through online means. Using online textual data from a forum (SuicideWatch) within an aggregate news-site (Reddit.com), this study analyzes individual posts made to a forum specifically for suicidal support. Using machine learning techniques with a dictionary of shame and anger words, this study selects posts indicating a mean level of shame (n=319) against the entire corpus of text (N=7473) collected from the forum. Posts are analyzed using Correspondence Analysis in R. Associations revealed between categories of shame and time are analyzed through a content analysis in ATLAS.ti. Preliminary findings of this study suggest significant (p < .05) associations between what psychologists term “prime time,” which indicates the peak hours of suicide deaths – between midnight and 4am – and using shame words in the post. These findings suggest that during peak hours, individuals who experience the emotion shame in their suicidality are likely to seek support through online means, which provides anonymity and can reduce other pressures (e.g., scheduling a therapy appointment, using a crisis phone line, etc.).

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