Research projects

Turning to online peer forums for suicide and self-harm support “It does help having you guys”

Principal researchers 

Anthony McCosker


Swinburne University of Technology


Commissioned and funded by Beyond Blue

Project completion year       


Project brief  

Dedicated online health forums provide community-oriented mental health support at a scale not achievable through direct eTherapy services, or face-to-face clinical services. Forums are a proven, simple, accessible and persistent early internet technology, and have shown their continued worth for those seeking online mental health support. Their strength lies in their accessibility and in the support peer mentors and mediators are able to provide.

This report maps the activity and characteristics of individuals who engage with Beyond Blue’s Suicidal thoughts and self-harm forum, which is one of twelve heavily subscribed online mental health support forums on the organisation’s website. This mapping work provides a substantial evidence base that can be used to maintain, improve and replicate these services to better reach people vulnerable to serious mental health risks.

Through a detailed analysis of activity occurring over a one-month period, the research offers three key insights:

  1. Those engaging with the forum at times of serious mental health crisis benefit from relaying the entangled personal, social, relational and biographical context of their mental ill-health to supportive others.
  2. Forums provide benefit to those in moments of crisis and suicidal ideation when there is sufficient peer mentorship and mediation available to encourage and maintain interaction.
  3. The stated benefits of engaging with the forum are multi-faceted, and range from just having access to peers who understand the difficulties of serious mental illness, to the ongoing guidance of “expert” peer mediators, including actionable strategies that can make a difference.


Suggested citation: McCosker, A., Hartup, M. (2017). Turning to online peer forums for suicide and self-harm support “It does help having you guys”.

Turning to online forums for suicide and self-harm support 2017

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