It’s important to explore a person’s internet use with them, this way you can build a shared understanding of the type of support or information they're looking for and what they find helpful or triggering. This will help you to adapt your advice and signposting to suit them and their needs.
Remember that what is helpful or harmful online can depend on the individual, or even how they’re feeling at the time. This means that no space can be guaranteed to be safe for everyone all the time, and people should understand how to access support if they see something that they find distressing.
Resources on how to stay safe
Samaritans have produced information and advice for users on how to navigate self-harm and suicide content safely. This includes information on:
- How to manage your newsfeeds by blocking or muting certain content
- How to report worrying content
- How to decide what you want to share online
- How to use trigger warnings and safe language to talk about suicide and self-harm
- How to find safe spaces to talk about your experiences
- How to support someone who might be struggling.
You can find other useful information and resources from the organisations below.
- Chatsafe, in partnership with Samaritans, have published UK guidance containing tools and tips for young people on communicating safely about suicide online.
- Childnet – for general online safety resources for young people, parents and schools.
- Net Aware –for online safety tips, advice and activities specifically for parents and carers of children under 18 years old.
You might think it is a negative thing but sometimes you can get good support from recovery communities … You just need to make sure you follow people who are positive influences and good for you.
Person with lived experience on the benefits of online support
Safer online spaces and communities
You may choose to direct people that you work with towards safer sites to talk about their mental health. Below is some advice on what to look for when deciding if a space is safe to talk about suicide and self-harm.
- Look for a space with clear community rules. Encourage them to read these before joining.
- Consider if the posts and comments feel supportive. Reviewing previous posts and responses can help you gauge the type of community and interactions a space is likely to provide. Reading someone else’s posts can be upsetting so people should only do this if they feel able to.
- Explore the level of moderation provided. Spaces run by charities are likely to have more moderation and it can be easier to get in touch with moderators if you have any issues or concerns.
The following charity organisations offer safer-spaces for online support, with good levels of moderation and clear community guidelines. However, people should still be cautious and think carefully about whether they want to join. Encourage them to reflect on how they feel and if they find joining these groups helpful or upsetting.
- The Mix – Online community for young people under 25 years old
- Side by Side (formerly Elefriends) – Mind’s online community where you can listen, share and be heard
- Mental health forum – Online mental health support with people who have lived experience of various mental health difficulties
- Bipolar UK eCommunity – Peer support community for people with bipolar disorder
- Beat Message Boards – Beat Eating Disorders online community
- Togetherall (formerly Big White Wall) – Online community accessible 24/7
- SANE Support Forum – SANE online community accessible 24/7
- Hafal Clic (in English and Welsh) – Online community for people in Wales with a mental illness and their carers
- YoungMinds – Online mental health support for young people under 25 years old
- Childline – a free service that offers support to young people under 19 years old for any difficulty they may experience. They also offer resources for deaf children and people with other hearing problems.
As well as joining online communities, you should make sure that a person has access to offline help as well. Explore with them whether they have support at home and consider signposting them to other offline services.
Help us shape the design of our new online safety hub
Do you support people at risk of suicide and self-harm? If so, we need your help. Samaritans are looking for practitioners to feed into the design of a new online safety hub. Learn more about the project and how you can get involved.