A potential source of data in understanding youth suicide — Instant messages
Paul W. C. Wong, King-Wa Fu and Paul S. F. Yip
Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR, China
Internet and Suicide. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009, 452 pages.
Psychological autopsy study has been used in yielding detailed and complete information on suicides. Studying the suicide notes of suicide decedents as part of a psychological autopsy enhances the quality of the information. However, one limitation of the psychological autopsy study approach is that it may easily lead to recall or other information bias because most of the information is collected from interviews of informants. Studying suicide notes also has its limitation because only a minority of suicide decedents leave notes and most of the notes are typically brief. This chapter will illustrate the practicability of using the instant messages of people who die by suicide as a source of information to enhance the reliability and validity of the information collected from a psychological autopsy, and its added value to overcome some of the limitations of suicide notes and psychological autopsies. We will first summarize the findings gathered from the coroner’s file and the interview with a young girl’s mother, and then present some of her instant messages in which we have found this extra information has enhanced our understanding of the her suicide and helped us to reconstruct the psychological state of the young girl.