Louis Moore reports on his co-creation project ‘Understanding Suicide: What role does social media play?’ with Dr Ann Luce as academic partner:
At the beginning of this project, I wondered how I might go about researching into suicide. As my project was looking into whether social media has a role to play in suicide, I thought it would be a good idea to recruit experts in the field via social media platforms such as Linkedin and Twitter. I used professional accounts where I continually posted about my research and interacted with many different people across a variety of fields. I managed to get into touch with a suicide prevention nurse, academics in suicidology and psychotherapists on Linkedin. Interestingly on Twitter I gained different participants, people who blogged about mental health and suicide awareness were attained from this social media platform.
Additionally from researching into suicide and suicide prevention I found out that the National Suicide Prevention Alliance were holding an annual suicide prevention conference. The conference was to be held at the oval cricket ground in London, from speaking to the organisers they were happy to give me discount to attend. I used the money from CEL to fund my travel and ticket into the conference. This money was unbelievably valuable for my research as I was able to network with hundreds of people that day. Furthermore going to the conference gave me a sense of confidence that my research could be appreciated in the field of suicide.
I met with my academic advisor Doctor Ann Luce on a weekly basis to discuss the research and to ensure it was shaped in the correct way. I had never written a social science report before this project so being able to collaborate with Ann gave me great insight of how to become an academic writer.
It took me approximately four weeks to gather all the participants for the research, which was a very stressful process. I would manage to get people interested in the research however due to people’s busy schedules many were not able to talk. I gained fourteen participants which was exciting as I had planned to have between ten to fifteen. I spoke to people using telephone interviews and skype calls; skype was especially useful as two participants were based in Australia and two in the United States. The interviews lasted about thirty minutes, I managed to have long conversations with each of the participants either before or after the interviews which really inspired me to carry out the research. The excitement of others really gave me a sense of achievement which made me want to do as much justice to the project as possible. Furthermore, three participants personally gave me ‘shout outs’ on their social media platforms to congratulate the work I was doing.
A few months into the research I unfortunately hit a minor problem; the ethics of the research was struggling to be approved. Due to the emotive nature of the project the ethics board voiced their concerns that the research could affect the individuals who took part. This gave me a huge amount of stress as I had already collected all of the participants and the data was waiting to be written up. With the help and support of Ann we managed to appeal the worry of the ethics board and explained that professionals who deal with suicide on a daily basis would be the only people who would be interviewed. This was finally accepted and I was able to begin transcribing my material. After transcribing over sixty thousand words I was able to write up my findings.
I was also able to present my research and the national undergraduate conference where I gave a ten minute presentation about my research. This was a great experience for me as I usually struggled to present, however people seemed thoroughly interested in my research and I was asked a range of questions and given a lot of support. This made me want to tell as many people as possible about the alarming rates of suicide to make people realise the problem we face currently with mental health illness.
The findings concluded that social media does have a role to play in suicide and can aid suicide prevention. However suicide needs to be explored in further detail in order to find a solution to fluctuating suicide rates. The topic of suicide was a very distressing and challenging topic to tackle, however it was very worthwhile and although I felt I didn’t come to any definitive answers to my research it definitely has raised my interest in suicide. I am currently looking into doing further study at Bournemouth University in which I want to base my study around suicide.
If you wish to know more about the project, please contact Louis Moore.