Understanding the role of social media in the aftermath of youth suicides

Lead investigator
Professor Jonathan Scourfield

This study concerns young people’s use of Internet-based social media. The research is important as there has been considerable concern about how the use of social media may have contributed to the maintenance of suicide clusters, for example in the case of Bridgend in early 2008.

Aims & objectives
The study will compare how social media communication is used following suicides and traffic accidents in young people aged 18 or under. In particular attention will be paid to: i) the frequency of such communication, ii) what sentiments are expressed, and iii) any social networks revealed by social media contacts.
Study design

The Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) will be used to collect and explore social media communication (especially via Twitter and Facebook).  Deaths of young people in England during the study period will be identified via Child Death Overview Panels and daily news media searches.

Increased knowledge and understanding about how social media are used following a young person’s death will be valuable for health, education and social care services. Improvements to the COSMOS platform following the study could be used to identify of the risk of suicide clusters in future. The study will also provide a foundation for the development of interventions to encourage help-seeking in young people via social media.

Further information & publications
Start date
1 September 2013
End date
30 March 2015

Department of Health