The mental health of visitors of web-based support forums for bereaved by suicide

Jeannet Kramer*, Brigitte Boon, Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra, Wouter van Ballegooijen, Ad Kerkhof, Agnes van der Poel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background:Persons bereaved by suicide are reluctant to ask for social support when they experience feelings of guilt and blame. A web-based peer forum may provide a safe and anonymous place for mutual support. Aims: This study examined the mental health changes of visitors of two online support forums for persons bereaved by suicide and their experiences with the forum over 1 year.

Method: Visitors of two forums completed self-report measures at baseline and at 6 and 12 months' follow-up. Repeated measures analyses were used to study changes in well-being, depressive symptoms, and complicated grief. Additionally, participants were interviewed about their experiences with the forum.

Results: The 270 participants were mostly female, low in well-being, with high levels of depressive symptoms and complicated grief. Suicidal risk was high for 5.9%. At 12 months, there were small to medium-sized significant improvements in well-being and depressive symptoms (p <.001) and nearly as much for grief (p =.08). About two thirds reported benefit from visiting the forum. Because of the pre-post design we cannot determine whether a causal relationship exists between the form and changes in mental health.

Conclusion: After 1 year some positive changes but a large group was still struggling with their mental health. Interviews indicate that the forum was valued for finding recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Depressive complaints
  • Mental health
  • Peer support
  • Suicide survivors
  • Web-based forum


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