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

Elizabeth McDermott, Katrina Roen, Anna Piela

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)125-134
    Number of pages10
    JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


    • Gay
    • Gender
    • Lesbian
    • Self-harm
    • Sexuality
    • Suicide
    • Transgender


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