Rates of suicide attempts and deaths are highest on Mondays and these occur more frequently in the morning or early afternoon, suggesting weekly temporal and diurnal variation in suicidal behaviour. It is unknown whether there are similar time trends on social media, of posts relevant to suicide. We aimed to determine temporal and diurnal variation in posting patterns on the Reddit forum SuicideWatch, an online community for individuals who might be at risk of, or who know someone at risk of suicide.
We used time series analysis to compare date and time stamps of 90,518 SuicideWatch posts from 1st December 2008 to 31st August 2015 to (i) 6,616,431 posts on the most commonly subscribed general subreddit, AskReddit and (ii) 66,934 of these AskReddit posts, which were posted by the SuicideWatch authors.
Mondays showed the highest proportion of posts on SuicideWatch. Clear diurnal variation was observed, with a peak in the early morning (2:00–5:00 h), and a subsequent decrease to a trough in late morning/early afternoon (11:00–14:00 h). Conversely, the highest volume of posts in the control data was between 20:00–23:00 h.
Posts on SuicideWatch occurred most frequently on Mondays: the day most associated with suicide risk. The early morning peak in SuicideWatch posts precedes the time of day during which suicide attempts and deaths most commonly occur. Further research of these weekly and diurnal rhythms should help target populations with support and suicide prevention interventions when needed most.