Abstract

Online social support is known to play a significant role in mental well-being. However, current research is limited in its ability to quantify this link. Challenges exist due to the paucity of longitudinal, pre- and post-mental illness risk data, and reliable methods that can examine causality between past availability of support and future risk. In this paper, we propose a method to measure how the language of comments in Reddit mental health communities influences risk to suicidal ideation in the future. Incorporating human assessments in a stratified propensity score analysis based framework, we identify comparable subpopulations of individuals and measure the effect of online social support language.  We interpret these linguistic cues with an established theoretical model of social support, and find that esteem and network support play a more prominent role in reducing forthcoming risk. We discuss the implications of our work for designing tools that can improve support provisions in online communities.