After School, the largest teen-focused social network in the U.S., cares about teens and their wellbeing. In January, After School hosted the second Social Media Safety in Schools (SMSS) event. The one-day conference focused on preventing teen suicide and aiding the mental health of teens using social media and technology. “The event helped us learn how industry professionals approach suicide prevention and helped us get a wider understanding of how teens approach their own mental health,” said After School Vice President Jeff Collins.
Collins recently spoke at an event hosted by Stanford University’s Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellness titled Media & Youth Suicide: Best Practices For Reporting and Storytelling. The event brought together journalists, media experts, students, suicide prevention experts, child psychologists, and After School, the only company participant in the event. In his presentation, Jeff explained After School’s efforts to use the app for good, including encouraging compliments and offering teens the chance to connect anonymously with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line. After School’s partnership with Crisis Text Line has helped tens of thousands of teens to date.
Here were Jeff’s takeaways from the event:
- Suicide is a sensitive and controversial topic, leading many companies, organizations, and influencers to stay out of this important conversation.
- A review of a wide sample of media (news articles, stories, movies, and TV shows) demonstrates that there is an urgent need for additional training on how to cover suicide responsibly and safely.
- Reporters need to recognize that how they report has the ability to either help those in need or hurt them.
- Unfortunately, research shows that an increase in reporting on suicide has corresponded with an increase in suicides.
- Those who shared their experiences at the conference described how their journalistic instincts did not always lead them in the right direction on this issue. They had to spend time learning from those with experience covering suicide-related issues.
- When covering youth suicide, speaking with young people who have had experience with suicide can help journalists understand the youth mindset, which can impact their reporting in a positive manner.
- Social media isn’t inherently good or bad; it reflects the feelings/emotions of the person using it.
- There is a difference of opinion among experts as to whether news outlets should cover a non-celebrity suicide. On the one hand, a well-reported story can help those who may be in need. On the other hand, it can be difficult to report in a manner that follows the guidelines and does not increase risks.
- The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why was discussed in detail at the event — including in a presentation titled “13 Reasons To Be Concerned.” Most are concerned with the way the show turns a fictional suicide into a romantic love story, potentially glamorizing suicide.
- There needs to be a much bigger push to spread information and awareness to mental health issues outside of only covering suicide.
- Resources are available, including:
- Media may connect with one of Stanford’s mental health experts. They are open to speaking with media on stories regarding a media story involving youth suicide, at email@example.com, 650-498-7056.
- “Recommendations for Reporting Suicide” is a useful guide developed by the American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Annenberg Public Policy Center, AssociatedAssociatied Press Managing Editors, and others. Find it at www.ReportingOnSuicide.org.
- View tips and recommendations for reporting on mass shootings at Go to www.reportingonmassshootings.org. for tips Recommendations for Reporting on Mass Shootings.
We would like to thank Stanford University and organizers for putting this important event together and for including us in the conversation. We look forward to continuing to positively impact the movement to prevent suicide.