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Doing being 'on the edge' : managing the dilemma of being authentically suicidal in an online forum

Horne, Judith and Wiggins, S. (2009) Doing being 'on the edge' : managing the dilemma of being authentically suicidal in an online forum. Sociology of Health and Illness, 31 (2). pp. 170-184. ISSN 0141-9889

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Those who attempt suicide have often been described as 'crying for help', and there are implications if such cries are not taken seriously. This paper examines how users of an Internet forum for 'suicidal thoughts' work up their authenticity in their opening posts, and how these are responded to by fellow forum users. Data were taken from two Internet forums on suicide over a period of one month and were analysed using discursive psychology. The analysis demonstrates that participants display their authenticity through four practices: narrative formatting, going 'beyond' depression, displaying rationality and not explicitly asking for help. Furthermore, both initial and subsequent posts worked up identities as being psychologically 'on the edge' of life and death. The analysis suggests that the forum in part works as a site for suicidal identities to be tested out, authenticated and validated by individuals. We conclude with some suggestions for the supportive work of suicide 'postvention'.