Acceptability and Potential Impact of the #chatsafe Suicide Postvention Response Among Young People Who Have Been Exposed to Suicide: Pilot Study

Louise La Sala, Jane Pirkis, Charlie Cooper, Nicole T. M. Hill, Michelle Lamblin, Gowri Rajaram, Simon Rice, Zoe Teh, Pinar Thorn, Rifat Zahan, Jo Robinson

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Background: Young people are more likely to be affected by suicide contagion, and there are concerns about the role social media plays in the development and maintenance of suicide clusters or in facilitating imitative suicidal behavior. However, social media also presents an opportunity to provide real-time and age-appropriate suicide prevention information, which could be an important component of suicide postvention activities.Objective: This study aimed to test an intervention designed to equip young people to communicate safely online about suicide (#chatsafe) with a sample of young people who had recently been exposed to a suicide or suicide attempt, with a view to determining the role social media can play as part of a postvention response. Methods: A sample of 266 young people from Australia, aged 16 to 25 years, were recruited to participate in the study. They were eligible if they had been exposed to a suicide or knew of a suicide attempt in the past 2 years. All participants received the #chatsafe intervention, which comprised 6 pieces of social media content that were sent to them weekly via direct message through Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. Participants were assessed on a range of outcome measures (social media use, willingness to intervene against suicide, internet self-efficacy, confidence, and safety when communicating about suicide on social media platforms) at baseline, immediately after the intervention, and at 4-week follow-up.Results: After the 6-week #chatsafe intervention, participants reported substantial improvements in their willingness to intervene against suicide online, their internet self-efficacy, and their perceived confidence and safety when communicating about suicide online. Overall, the participants reported that it was appropriate to receive the #chatsafe intervention via social media, and no iatrogenic effects were recorded.Conclusions: The findings suggest that it is safe and acceptable to disseminate suicide prevention information entirely via social media among young people who have recently been exposed to a suicide or suicide attempt. Interventions such as #chatsafe could potentially mitigate the risk of distress and future suicidal behavior in young people by improving the quality and safety of online communication about suicide and, as such, can be an important component of delivering a postvention response to young people.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44535
Number of pages16
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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