New research shows some men and boys who are contemplating suicide are finding emotional support in an unexpected place: discussion website Reddit.
Reddit is a social news and discussion website that is popular among young adult men. The website includes several topic-specific subreddit discussion forums, one them is SuicideWatch. As of this month, SuicideWatch has more than 96,000 subscribers.The regulated space allows people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts to post anonymously about what they are going through and receive emotional support from other users.
University of Arizona sociology doctoral student Darla Still has been analyzing the content of anonymous posts made to SuicideWatch to learn more about what people go through when contemplating suicide and how they express those thoughts and feelings to others. Her research finds the SuicideWatch subreddit may provide a unique source of gender-specific support for men and boys. According to Still, while females are twice as likely as males to attempt suicide, males are three times more likely to die by suicide. Men also underreport mental health symptoms, and many scholars have theorized that men have more difficulty openly expressing emotions than women due to the ways in which they are socialized with masculine norms.
Although Reddit does not identify users by gender, Still focused on posts in which gender was implied by the posts' content. She focused on posts such as, "I am a joke of man," or referred to instances in which they've been told to "be a man" or "man up." The main goal of the research is to bring attention to the issue and try to move away from the stigma that men face, Still said.
Still plans on continuing to analyze 165,000 posts and more than 1 million comments submitted to the SuicideWatch subreddit between 2009 and 2017. She hopes to gain a better understanding of what both men and women go through when contemplating suicide and how an online forum might offer support.