Offline versus online suicide-related help seeking: Changing domains, changing paradigms

Amy-Lee Seward, Kieth M. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Suicidal individuals are among the most reluctant help-seekers, which limits opportunities for treating and preventing unnecessary suffering and self-inflicted deaths. This study aimed to assist outreach, prevention, and treatment efforts by elucidating relationships between suicidality and both online and offline help seeking.
Method: An anonymous online survey provided data on 713 participants, aged 18-71 years. Measures included an expanded General Help-Seeking Questionnaire and the Suicidal Affect-Behavior-Cognition Scale.

Results: General linear modeling results showed that, as predicted, face-to-face help-seeking willingness decreased as risk level increased. However, for emerging adults help-seeking likelihood increased with informal online sources as risk increased, while other online help-seeking attitudes differed little by risk level. Linear regression modeling determined that, for suicidal individuals, willingness to seek help from online mental health professionals and online professional support sites was strongly related (ps <.001). Help seeking from social networking sites and anonymous online forums was also interrelated, but more complex, demonstrating the importance of age and social support factors (ps <.001).

Conclusion: These findings show that the Internet has altered the suicide-related help-seeking paradigm. Online help seeking for suicidality was not more popular than face-to-face help seeking, even for emerging adults. However, treatment and prevention professionals have good reasons to increase their online efforts, because that is where some of the highest risk individuals are going for help with their most severe personal problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-620
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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