Preventing Suicide with Social Media

Teen Suicide Prevention: What Social Media Users Can Do

August 28, 2017

People who are in need, whether our friends or complete strangers, usually show signs that they are struggling. Unfortunately, too few of us actually pay attention to and act on these signs. Warning signs and calls for help can be seen on the social networks we use every day. Those networks are home to over 2.8 billion people who express themselves and connect with others online each year, many of them teens.

In May, we wrote How to Spot & Support a Friend Suffering from Depression to give you a quick guide on how to identify and help friends who are in need. But what that guide didn’t explain is how anyone can use social media to recognize and even help someone who is showing signs that they need help or may be considering suicide.

First, you need to know what to look for. The Live Laugh Love Foundation shares these “suicidal signs on social media”:

  1. Intense and urgent emotional despair or intense guilt or shame, feeling trapped.
  2. Talking about suicide or wanting to die.
  3. Showing rage or seeking revenge.
  4. Glorifying or glamorizing death or making death seem heroic.
  5. Asking where/how to get suicide aids(means).

Now just because you’ve noticed someone express one of the above indicators doesn’t mean they are depressed or thinking about killing themselves. What it does mean is that you should look for additional warning signs and reach out to them to see how they’re doing.

If they continue to post things that make you worry about their health and safety,  here are some tips on how to approach the issue:

If a situation feels uncomfortable and dangerous, it could be. It’s better to take action rather than wait and wish you had done something to help. Trust your gut and help when you can. It could save someone’s life.

Taking action can start with checking in on someone you’re worried about, whether a friend or stranger. A simple “Hey, I noticed you posted that sad picture yesterday, I was wondering how you are doing,” could help you know how they’re doing and show them that someone cares about them, even if you’re a stranger.

If you are concerned about something serious like suicide, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re wondering what to do next, reach out to a trusted adult and share what you’re seeing and feeling. By showing them messages and communications that the person has been making, the adult can probably help you decide what to do next.

If you do decide to share your concerns with the person you’re worried about, approach them and their feelings with care. This may be a sensitive subject they’ve never talked about with anyone before. If you can, try to meet in person or at least talk one-on-one over the phone or by text. Try to create a supportive atmosphere where they know you’re on their side.

If you believe the person needs help urgently, you or your friend can text with a Crisis Counselor on Crisis Text Line by texting “Hi Tiger” to 741-741. This is free and anonymous. If you’d prefer to speak to someone over the phone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

We can use the power of social media for good. By keeping an eye on and supporting people in our network, we can save lives.

For more on online safety, follow @SafetyOnSocial on Twitter and Facebook and make sure to visit the After School blog here.

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