The relationship between social media and suicide clusters
This project is investigating the role social media plays in the emergence (or inhibition) of suicide clusters (groups of suicides that occur closer together in time and space than would normally be expected on the basis of either statistical prediction or community expectation). In Stage 1 of this project, we will identify communities in which suicide clusters have occurred and match them to communities in which non-clustered suicides have occurred. We will then identify the first suicide in each cluster and control community, and examine the social media activity surrounding it, searching Facebook and Twitter using the name of the person involved and using automated analysis techniques to examine the nature of the various posts. In Stage 2, we will take the Stage 1 findings and use them to modify the content of an existing social media intervention that promotes safe discussion of suicide online. We will pilot a novel way of rolling out the revised intervention that involves message dissemination by well-networked individuals. In Stage 3, we will apply the findings from the case-control study (Stage 1) to provide input parameters in a computer simulation model of suicidal behaviour to test the potential effects of the social media intervention (Stage 2) on the population. The project will advance knowledge about the role social media plays in initiating suicide clusters and how this might be turned around to prevent them. It will result in an evidence-informed intervention and a novel means of dissemination that capitalises on the ‘social’ nature of the online environment.
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