, Volume 47, Issue 12, pp 1929-1935
Date: 11 Apr 2012

Responses to suicidal messages in an online support group: comparison between trained volunteers and lay individuals

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Abstract

Purpose

Although trained volunteers are considered to be a valuable source of emotional first aid for individuals in crisis, there is a paucity of empirical evidence comparing them to lay individuals. The current study exploits a methodological opportunity engendered by an online support group in which both trained volunteers and lay individuals responded to the same distressful messages within the same naturally occurring setting.

Method

The two groups were compared on the basis of the types of strategies they employed in response to 111 suicidal messages retrieved from an online support group operated by the Israeli Association of Emotional First Aid (ERAN).

Results

Trained volunteers used a wider variety of strategies. They also employed more emotion-focused strategies and more therapeutic-like cognitive-focused strategies than the lay individuals. Self-disclosure was more prevalent among the responses of the lay individuals.

Conclusions

Trained volunteers constitute a valuable community source of suicide prevention. The implications of the findings regarding the provision of crisis intervention and suicide prevention via an online support groups are discussed.