Washington, Jan 11 : A University of Alberta researcher has found that online community can prove to be helpful for youngsters having suicidal tendencies.
Elaine Greidanus, a grad student in Educational Psychology said that teens are difficult to reach and there haven't been many services earlier that directly target adolescent suicidal behavior. She also said that teens prefer internet for the emotional support rather than phone or seeing a counselor.
Greidanus did a study to see the extent to which cyber support was helpful and observed an online help site, where teens would create an anonymous thread, and studied about a dozen participants.
She found that trained volunteers, who helped the adolescents, would write messages including: "It sounds like you are experiencing a lot of pain right now," "What are some things that give you strength in your life"" and "If you read some of the other threads, you may be surprised that several people have similar feelings."
The volunteers would frequently suggest specific resources including local telephone help lines or talking to a counsellor. In addition to that, even other adolescents were found to offer advice.
Greidanus noticed messages of empathy including "Stop hurting yourself, I care for you!" and "You should go to the doctor."
It was discovered that these messages helped the participants to develop a relationship and a sense of community with their peers.
"Accessing adolescents and providing services in a way that they will actually seek help is a critical issue," said Psychologist, university professor and expert in adolescent suicidal behaviour Dr. Robin Everall.
According to Everall, the understanding of how adolescents interact and communicate with each other on the internet can open new channels for connecting with distressed youth.
He said that it was encouraging that well designed and monitored cyber communities are being used.
It was found that the teens emphasized the importance of expressing their thoughts and feelings to a community who understood.
Greidanus suggested that the online community created an opportunity to seek and receive social support they would not otherwise have.
It was also found that many participants, who themselves were seeking support initially, began writing to support others.
Greidanus believes that the online community is a meaningful peer-based support system.