Forums & chatrooms can be supportive too

31st October 2013

At Get Safe Online we are always keen to encourage and celebrate the many positive aspects of the internet in the face of a barrage of publicity about the negatives – including the potential for self-harm and suicide.

For information and advice on chatrooms and forums, click here.

New research published by Oxford University has identified a balance between this types of danger resulting from the use of forums and chatrooms, and the positives.

According the BBC, researchers have said that some studies had shown that internet forums can serve to support and connect socially isolated people as well as encouraging positive behaviour, advising on where to seek help and congratulating users for not harming themselves.

The author of the report, Professor Keith Hawton said: "Communication via the internet and other electronic means has potential roles in both contributing to and preventing suicidal behaviour in young people. The next step is going to be development of therapeutic interventions using these channels of communication, especially to access those who do not seek help from clinical services."

The Samaritans' Joe Ferns commented: "We should acknowledge that many people are using suicide forums and chatrooms to anonymously discuss their feelings of distress and despair, including suicidal thoughts, which may have a positive impact on the individual. They may be expressing feelings that they have never disclosed to anyone in their offline lives." He added: "Rather than concentrating primarily on ways of blocking and censoring such sites, we should think about online opportunities to reach out to people in emotional distress."

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