Alert: this post may contain material that is triggering for some. If you find yourself in crisis, you can call 1-800-273-8255, or visit www.crisischat.org for support.
SPSMchat is a project that emerged out of need and collaboration. Suicide, as a human behavior, is not new. However, IT advancements and rapidly changing media have created changes in the ways people express and share suicidal experiences.
For example, in last week’s SPSMchat 2 suicide-related social media events were mentioned by participants. Read about them here:
We’ll be discussing these events in our next chat, Sunday 8/25/13, 9pm CST. Social media and the internet have created highly networked, and amplified platforms for the sharing, discussing, and dissemination of suicidal experiences.
Unfortunately three things get in the way of mental health professionals responding effectively.
First, many mental health professionals have an irrational, knee-jerk aversion to approaching and managing their digital presence (beyond loudly proclaiming that it is vaguely “bad” to have an identifiable social media presence), so they simply avoid this phenomenon. Because of our un-considered anxieties about media and technology, we have abandoned our post in this arena of public health and suicide prevention.
Second, mental health, as a profession, has relatively slow, deliberate processes for investigating behavioral phenomena, generating consensus about how to respond, and providing opinion/recommendations. This stands in stark contrast to the rapid, highly amplified nature of social media and on-line communication. In the time it takes to understand and respond to something through traditional means in our profession, the crucial social media response window has long since lapsed, and the technology and platforms have advanced and changed at a lightning pace.
Third, we have not built good working partnerships with media and technology experts. We often do not understand the language and infrastructures of these arenas, so we might not know how to approach and build life-saving, health-promoting partnerships that are effective. Occasionally, beyond being ineffective and uninsightful, we may actively villianize or pathologize the very professionals and systems with whom we should be collaborating (I bet more mental health pros have written about ‘internet addiction’ or the ‘dangers’ of Facebook participation than have ever bothered to develop a meaningful social media policy or on-line suicide prevention strategy). As a profession we might even look with suspicion on other professionals who are “out there” attempting to engage with social media.
SPSMchat is an attempt to contribute to public health by using social media to overcome these obstacles. First, by demonstrating a mental health social media presence that is intentional, thoughtful, and safe. Second, by engendering professional collaboration and conversation that is rapidly curated, widely distributed, and plastic so that it can respond to current events and trends. Third, by inviting and encouraging inclusion of media experts so that we can become more insightful and effective in using social media to prevent suicide and spread health.
But, to do this, we need your help. We need you to “like,” “share,” “retweet,” and “post” our content to your networks that you think might need it. Doing so will give us the best chances for saving lives lost to suicide, and for building a healthier on-line community. And THANKS!