Social media has much potential for raising community awareness about the problem of suicide due to the capacity for expression of emotion, care and support for those affected as well as a way of channelling and managing grief. However, it can also increase levels of distress or support negative sub-cultures that promote and support suicide, self-harm and pornography.
Young people can be unwittingly preyed upon by those pedalling pornography on the Internet. The lack of monitoring and surveillance of these sites, increasingly being used for educational purposes, and the delivery of mental health services for young people, is cause for alarm. With the abundance of youths spending significant time on social media, particularly Facebook, it is a key influence on the young population.
If used correctly, it has the power to provide opportunities for support, interaction and education on suicide. However, with rapid advancements and vastness of the Internet, coupled with the limited censorship of teen usage, it is possible that negative influences have the power to overcome the positive for some. Of particular concern is the infiltration, or amalgamation, of pornography with suicide awareness, music, lifestyle and culture sites. Research findings are presented illustrating current and potential uses for different social media.
It is argued that all of the social media studied including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr and Pinterest are useful for community education, suicide prevention and awareness by organisations, individual survivors and family members and friends of those affected by suicide. Further development of this capacity is required to combat the negative and disturbing images and information currently on some social media sites.
When used with compassion and sensitivity social media is a powerful tool with the potential to educate the community, and assist and support young people who may be contemplating or affected by suicide.
The 14th International Mental Health Conference being held at Outrigger, Surfers Paradise on Monday the 5th and Tuesday the 6th of August 2013 welcomes Jennifer Martin who will be presenting this discussion at the conference. Jennifer is Associate professor of social work at RMIT University, Melbourne and has an extensive experience in mental health practice, service development and design, education, advocacy and research and evaluation, locally and globally. She is the author of Mental Health Social Work (2012), SA: Ginninderra Press.