Social Media Sentiments on Suicides at the New York City Landmark, Vessel: A Twitter Study

On March 15, 2019, Vessel opened to the public as a prominent feature of the new Hudson Yards Public Square. Unfortunately, the popular tourist attraction, designed for both climbing and sightseeing, soon gained notoriety for a different reason when it became the site of four suicides in less than two years. Shortly after the first incident, conversations relating to suicide-related activity at Vessel began appearing on Twitter. In a new study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Dr. Yunyu Xiao, assistant professor of population health sciences, and colleagues examined these Twitter discussions to study the trajectory of the public sentiment surrounding suicide prevention.

Their engagement analysis saw a cumulative and lingering effect of suicide-related discussion after the second suicide. Following the third and fourth cases, engagement increased significantly, and the conversations continued for a more extended period. In their thematic analysis, researchers noted a change in tone following the fourth suicide. Tweets turned from expressing emotions and personal opinions to concerns about implementing suicide prevention strategies. Currently, Vessel remains closed for the foreseeable future. However, if there are plans for reopening, researchers recommend structural modifications to mitigate suicide risks.

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