Hard-to-reach youth online: methodological advances in self-harm research

Tuesday 14 May 2013, 12.45PM to 1.45pm

Inaugural seminar for the Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York.

Presented by: Dr Elizabeth McDermott (University of York).

This seminar draws on Dr McDermott's expertise in the use of online social research methods. One such example from her work is the Living on the 'virtual' edge project. A paper by Dr McDermott on methodological advances in self-harm research is being published shortly.

Location: ARRC Seminar Room ARRC/010

Audio recording of the seminar

Abstract and slides 

  • Seminar slides (PDF , 727kb)
  • McDermott, E., Roen, K. and Piela, A. (2013) Hard-to-reach youth online: Methodological advances in self-harm research. Sexuality Research & Social Policy, Vol.10 (2), pp.125-134. DOI: 10.1007/s13178-012-0108-z. Available online.

International research has demonstrated that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth have elevated rates of suicide and self-harm. What is missing from the evidence base, however, is qualitative research investigating LGBT youth perspectives. This is a sensitive subject area presenting ethical, methodological and epistemological challenges, especially in relation to over-sampling the 'visible' sections of a hidden population, retrospective reporting, and capturing complex emotions. We report on our use of qualitative online methodology to examine Internet forums where LGBT youth discuss self-harming. We found that this methodology can address some research dilemmas by generating: (a) diverse samples in terms of sexuality and gender identities; (b) a different type of data, immediate and unmediated by researchers; and (c) complex psychosocial emotional data. We argue that this online data can enhance our understanding of the links among hard-to-reach youth, suicide, self-harm, sexuality and gender, which is crucial to developing effective and appropriate suicide prevention strategies and mental health policies.