Sharing your feelings and experiences online during a difficult time can be really helpful. You might find it easier to talk online than face to face and find it helpful to connect with other people who are going through similar experiences.
However, it can also be upsetting if you don’t get the response you want or your post is shared with people who you don’t want to see it. Posts about suicide and self-harm can also be upsetting for other users, so it’s important to think about what you’re posting online.
This resource covers information on:
- Why it’s important to post safely
- Finding a safe space online to talk about your experiences
- Things to think about before you post
- How to make sure your post is safe
- What happens after you’ve posted
- What happens if your posts get removed
- Hearing about other user’s experience
- Finding support offline
Important things to consider:
Why it’s important to post safely
Sharing your personal experiences online of self-harm or suicide can be helpful in many different ways. However, sometimes posting about self-harm or suicide, or viewing other user’s posts can be upsetting or triggering and can make a big impact on how you think about self-harm and suicide.
Posting about methods of harm or graphic images or videos can be distressing to others, but can also lead users to try those methods themselves. For some people, viewing posts about self-harm and suicide can also make the behaviours feel more normal and it might be seen as an effective long-term coping strategy. It’s extremely important to understand the risks associated with posting or viewing this content online so that you have the tools you need to share your experiences safely and explore the benefits of seeking support online.
Where can I find a safe space to talk online about my experiences?
There are lots of sites where you can share your experiences, such as online forums and social media platforms. Finding a safe space to post is really important and how safe you feel on a platform might feel different for different people. Before posting, it is worth thinking about what site is right for you. It might help to think about:
The platform community rules – sites and platforms have different rules about what they do and don’t allow in relation to posts about self-harm and suicide so it can be worth reading the guidelines before you post.
How safe and supportive the community feels – to understand how supportive the community is, it can help to look at others who have shared their experiences and the type of responses they got. Reading other people’s stories can sometimes be upsetting, so only do this if you feel able to.
Level of moderation and support – platforms have different levels of moderation and support, so it's worth checking this before joining. For example, online communities run by charity organisations often have higher levels of moderation and support for self-harm and suicide content, which might make you feel safer. It can also be easier to contact the moderators if you have questions, need support, or want a personalised response.
If you’re looking for an online support community run by charity organisations, you could try:
- 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
Sites to avoid – to keep yourself safe, try to avoid sites that make you feel uncomfortable in any way, that encourage self-harm or suicide, or sites where users share graphic content or methods of harm. If you find a site that worries you, you can report it to Report Harmful Content.
Before you post
Before you post about how you’re feeling, it might be helpful to ask yourself:
- What do you want to get out of posting? Do you want to raise awareness or are you looking for support?
- How will sharing your experience make you feel? Sometimes sharing personal experiences and feelings can leave you feeling vulnerable. Try to make sure you are ready to tell your story and have thought about who might read your post.
- How much do you want to share? In the moment, it can be easy to share everything about how you’re feeling but some people find that when they feel a bit better, they regret how much they’ve shared. Before you post try to think about how you might feel in the future about having shared your experience.
- Who will see your post? Online content can be seen by lots of users and can be shared quickly, sometimes without you knowing. It can also be hard to permanently delete if it is shared or copied by others. It is important to think about this before you post and think about who you do and don’t want to see the post. Checking your privacy settings can be an important step in giving you more control of who sees what you share.
- How might your post impact on other users? Research suggests that reading about other people’s experiences can sometimes be overwhelming or triggering. It’s important to remember that if you don’t get the response you want it’s not because people don’t care – they might just not be in the right space to offer support.
Tips for posting safely
It’s really important to feel able to share your story in a way that feels safe and comfortable for you. These tips can help you to share your experiences safely, helping to protect your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
Use trigger warnings – some people might be upset by seeing something about suicide online, even if it’s supportive or helpful. Consider putting a note at the beginning of your post explaining that it relates to suicide to let others decide whether they want to look at it. For example, you could write “Trigger warning – this post discusses suicidal feelings” or “TW – suicidal feelings”.
Focus on feelings rather than behaviours – try to focus on sharing how you’re feeling, rather than describing the behaviour itself. This is because detailed or graphic descriptions of harm can sometimes be copied by other users.
Avoid including graphic images or detail around methods of self-harm or suicide – this can sometimes be triggering for other users.
Try to avoid encouraging or promoting self-harm or suicide – posts describing self-harm and suicide as effective ways of coping can encourage other users to try it.
Include a link or information on available support – if you think your post might be upsetting to others, it can be helpful to include a link or information about support. For example, “If you have found this post upsetting, you can call, text or email trusted support organisations or helplines”.
Share positive experiences – it can be very powerful to share tips and suggestions of things that you have found helpful or stories of hope and recovery to inspire others.
When posting in crisis
Take a moment before you post. Focusing on breathing and other meditation techniques or thinking of a trusted person who would be able to listen and understand your feelings may be very helpful. You might find the following coping strategies helpful:
- Try a breathing exercise – a relaxation exercise of controlled breathing can be a useful tool for feeling calmer quickly and reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. This technique is easy to memorise and can be practised almost anywhere.
- Try muscle relaxation – this involves tensing and releasing pairs of muscles in sequence. It can help if you imagine tension leaving your body as you release your muscles.
- Practise self-care – spend time doing something to take care of your mental health. This could be anything from reading your favourite book, speaking to loved ones, following breathing exercises or baking. Samaritans Self-Help app recommends things you can do to feel better, as well as keep track of how you’re feeling.
- Remember you are never alone – even if you don’t have a family member or friends close by, Samaritans volunteers are here for you every day of the year, round the clock.
After you’ve posted
When you have published a post, it can help to:
Reflect on how it’s made you feel – try to notice whether posting has made you feel any positives such as relief, acceptance or support. If it has made you feel worse or unsafe, it’s OK to remove or hide your post for now and talk to someone you trust about how it’s made you feel.
Managing comments – sometimes posts can quickly become out of control and you might get unhelpful comments. If this happens you can try to steer the conversation back to your post, hide your post or report the comments to the platform.
Try not to focus on the number of likes or comments –try to focus on how the process of posting made you feel, rather than the response you are getting for it, such as number of likes or comments to the post.
Remove your post if you no longer want people to see it – it can be easy to forget about things you’ve posted when they’re no longer getting comments. You might feel they are part of your story and want to keep them but sometimes it can be helpful to remove the post if you don’t want others to see it in the future.
Seek support – sometimes posting such content may make you feel worse. If that happens seek support offline by accessing mental health services, talking to a family member or a friend, or through helplines, like Samaritans or Shout.
What happens if your posts get removed
Sites and platforms will remove posts if they break their community guidelines. For example, if you’ve written about methods of harm, which can be risky to other users. This can be really upsetting and frustrating, especially if you’re sharing something very personal or if you’re opening up for the first time.
If this happens, you can look at the site’s community guidelines about what their rules are about posting about self-harm and suicide. If you feel able to, you can try to edit your post so that you can post again and continue to get support from other users. The platform should also inform you how you can appeal their decision to remove your post.
On some forums, you might also be able to get support from the moderators who can help explain why your post was removed and help you share your experiences safely.
Unfortunately, not all platforms provide personalised responses when removing content or provide a thorough response if you ask for feedback. If you do not receive a response from the platform and it is still upsetting, you may want to seek support or talk to someone about how you feel.
Hearing other user’s experiences
When sharing your experiences about self-harm and suicidal feelings online, you might connect with lots of other people who are going through similar experiences. This can be really helpful, but if might feel overwhelming at times or you might feel triggered by something you read.
Check in with yourself regularly – ask yourself how posting and hearing other people’s stories is impacting on your wellbeing.
Take a break – remember it’s OK to take a break from online platforms if it’s starting to have a negative impact on the way you feel.
Report anything that worries you – if you receive any messages or see posts that worry you, you can report it directly to the platform for them to take a look at.
Curate your social media feeds – you can limit the content you see on social media by blocking or muting accounts and users. Some platforms will let you filter out certain search terms or hashtags, so you have more control over what comes up on your feed.
Finding support offline
You might find it easier to talk online rather than face-to-face, but it’s really important that you also seek help offline if you’re going through a difficult time. You could try talking to:
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