Suicide prevention by online support groups: An action theory-based model of emotional first aid

Itzhak Gilat, Golan Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In the last two decades, online support groups have become a valuable source of help for individuals in suicidal crisis. Their attractiveness is attributed to features that enhance help-seeking and self-disclosure such as availability, anonymity, and use of written communication. However, online support groups also suffer from limitations and potential risks as agents of suicide prevention. The Israeli Association for Emotional First Aid (ERAN) has developed a practical model that seeks to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of online suicide prevention. The model applies the Action Theory concepts whereby individuals shape their own environment. The present paper presents the model, which is based on an online support group combined with personal chat and a telephonic help line. The online support group is moderated by paraprofessionals who function as both process regulators and support providers. The principles and practice of the model are described, the theoretical rationale is presented, and directions for future research are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-63
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Action theory
  • Online support group
  • Suicide
  • Trained volunteers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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