Suicide Loss Survivors Can Connect Online

There are a number interactive online support communities for people bereaved by suicide that merit attention as potentially helpful resources. The examples, below, of several communities that are relatively well established and frequently used will hopefully serve as a starting place for survivors of suicide loss who are interested in exploring whether online assistance is right for them:

  • Alliance of Hope, a discussion forum
  • Compassionate Friends Chat Room, an online chat (for parents who have lost a child, see the meeting calendar for the "Survivors of Suicide" chat schedule)
  • Legacy Connect's "Suicide's Survivors," a discussion forum
  • Parents of Suicides - Friends & Families of Suicides (POS-FFOS), two email listservs

As with all resources, online assistance should be investigated thoroughly and judiciously by survivors of suicide loss, using their own judgment about whether or not the resource is helpful. The following general guidelines are suggested for those who participate in online forums.

Discussion Forum: A discussion forum (also called a "discussion board," "bulletin board," or message board") is an asynchronous communication tool that allows one individual to post a comment or question online, then other individuals who are members of the same discussion forum may read and respond at any time with their own remarks, creating an ongoing "thread" of discussion on a particular topic.

  • When you are in an online discussion, keep your ideas focused on the ideas being discussed.
  • You don‟t have to share everything you know about a topic. Keep your message short.
  • If you want to introduce a new idea you might put in a new subject title that lets people know what the message is about.
  • The use of emoticons -- such as :-( for an "unhappy face" -- may be better (or less aggressive) than the use of exclamation marks or capital letters that look like SHOUTING.
  • Not everyone can get online regularly, or has the confidence to post ideas often. Bear this in mind and try not to dominate the discussion. Give others space and time to reply so everyone has an opportunity to be heard. Respect the opinions of others.
  • Think before sending. Before you hit "send," double-check your message. Does it say what you want it to say? Is the subject line simple and descriptive of your topic. Even if you are saying something that is difficult to say, are you being civil and considerate?
  • -- (Adapted from "Guide to Facilitating Online Discussion Forums.") --

Email Listserv: A listserv (short for "list server") is actually the software program that automatically sends messages to multiple e-mail addresses on a mailing list. When someone subscribes to a mailing list, the listserv will automatically add the address and distribute future e-mail messages to that address along with all the others on the list. Each member receives the messages in his or her regular email inbox, either individually or in a periodic "digest" that includes the sender, subject line, and a link for all of the current day's (daily digest) or week's (weekly digest) messages.

  • Only send a message to the entire list when it contains information from which everyone can benefit.
  • Avoid sending messages with limited substance to the entire list, such as “I agree” or “Thanks for the information.” Send these messages to the individual, whose email should be included in the original message.
  • Include a standard "signature" at the bottom of your messages that lists your name and, if appropriate, your affiliation, location, and e-mail address.
  • State concisely and clearly the topic of your comments in the subject line. This allows members to respond more appropriately to your posting and makes it easier for members to search for messages by subject.
  • Warn other list subscribers of lengthy messages you are writing either in the subject line or at the beginning of the message body with a line that says "Long Message." Do the same thing -- very accurately and concisely -- with other types of notable content.
  • Include only the relevant portions of the original message in your reply. Delete any header information, and put your response before the original posting.
  • Do not send administrative messages, such as "Remove me from the list," through the email listserv. Instead, use the listserv's settings or contact the moderator individually to remove yourself from a list (change your email address, update your personal information, etc.). -- (Adapted from "Email Listserv Rules & Etiquette.") --

Online Chat: An online chat is a real-time, synchronous, text-based communication via computer. Participants in online chat sessions type messages to each other using their keyboards. The messages then appear on the screens of all the participants, who can continuously add to the conversation.

  • Say hello: When entering a chat room for the first time, acknowledge your presence by greeting everyone ("hi all," "hello," or "greetings" is fine).
  • Don't "shout": Avoid ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, which are interpreted as shouting.
  • Avoid flooding - Keep messages short to avoid "flooding" other people's screens with a lot of text. If you have a long message, break it into several sentences and send them separately.
  • Be courteous: If you are going to participate in a chat, then don't ignore people who address you directly (unless they are being offensive). If someone asks you a question, send some sort of reply.
  • Be mindful: The chat is a public area (it is available to all who are signed in to the chat) where diverse people meet to talk about a specific subject. Think about what you are about to type and whether or not it will offend someone or violate your own boundaries in some way.
  • Stick to the subject: Stay within the topic of the chat room. Keep peripheral conversations to a minimum.
  • Say goodbye: When you leave a chat room, say goodbye so the people with whom you have been talking know that you've left. -- (Adapted from "Chat Etiquette," by Abigail Bornstein.) --