Writing characteristics of suicidal people on the Internet: a psychological investigation of emerging social environments

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2005 Oct;35(5):507-24. doi: 10.1521/suli.2005.35.5.507.


Three studies were carried out to investigate the writings of suicidal people on the Internet, hypothesizing consistent findings to equivalent research of offline writing. In Study 1, suicidal persons' (n = 34) attributions as the cause of their condition, as expressed in their free online writing, were compared to those of emotionally distressed, nonsuicidal (n = 16) and to nondistressed (n = 15) individuals. Results showed that suicidal persons have significantly more stable and global attributions than do the other groups. In Study 2, expressions of self-focus in online written messages were compared among suicidal, two levels of nonsuicidal but distressed, and nondistressed individuals (200 messages in each group). With the use of various expressions of self-focus, findings showed that suicidal people were distinctively self-focused in their writing, unlike their counterparts. In Study 3, psychologically relevant themes in the online writing of suicidal (n = 39) and highly distressed, nonsuicidal persons (n = 24) were compared. Results revealed that the former expressed significantly more unbearable psychological pain and cognitive constriction than did the latter. The findings of the three studies are consistent with those found in examinations of offline writing. The research has important implications for the use of online environments for psychological research and means for assessment, as well as for understanding suicidality.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Life Change Events
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Verbal Behavior*