Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Social Media Guidelines Offer Tips for Talking Effectively About Mental Health and Suicide Online

By Brian Dyak, President & CEO of Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. and co-lead of the Action Alliance Public Awareness and Education Task Force

Social media has become ubiquitous. People communicate online about their lives and get their information about the world from sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. When one in four people experience mental health challenges each year, social media is a place where some will turn to talk about their experiences, to seek support from their friends and to find helpful information. Social media offers a venue in which people are more comfortable discussing their own mental health issues, which in turn increases the likelihood that others will seek help when they need it.

With that in mind, the Entertainment Industries Council’s TEAM Up project has just released the first-of-its-kind Social Media Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention. These new guidelines are designed to assist individuals and organizations in safely and effectively talking about mental health and suicide-related issues via social media. With tips for posting and responding on Facebook pages, groups, Twitter feeds, Tumblr pages, websites and blogs and more, the guidelines take into account the unique safety, privacy and stigma-related aspects of these issues.

The recommendations in this document were reviewed by experts in social media and the related health fields. Organizational supporters of the Guidelines include the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, California Mental Health Services Authority, Facebook Inc. and leading journalism organizations the National Association of Broadcasters and Radio Television Digital News Association.

“Whether you want to share your own story, discuss events in the news or help others understand mental illness and encourage them to seek help when they need it, these recommendations will be a helpful resource for everyone, especially in teaching children and teens how to communicate about these issues. Safe, constructive communication via social media, that avoids stigmatizing or derogatory language and does no harm, changes the conversation and decreases discrimination,” said Brian Dyak, Entertainment Industries Council, President and CEO and Co-Chair National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Awareness & Education Task Force, when the Guidelines were released.

“Social media makes it easier than ever to connect and share with the people you care about,” said Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Facebook and Co-Chair of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Public Awareness & Education Task Force. “Knowing effective ways to seek input and offer support to your friends and families about difficult topics is an important part of building a safe online community."

“The guidelines have been reviewed by experts in social media and the related health fields. When communicating online avoiding descriptions and images of suicide acts or methods can help reduce the risk of suicide contagion. Anyone can use this new tool to help someone who may be in crisis and potentially help save a life,” Executive Director, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Dr. Dan Reidenberg commented.

Social media can be instrumental in bringing about social change – by spreading ideas from person to person, by bringing people together for a common purpose, by sharing and reinforcing social norms and by making it easy for people to take action. Social media is not about the technology, but rather it’s about people talking to people, often on a massive scale. By using these powerful tools in a strategic way, and encouraging others to do so as well, we can harness their power to change how people think about mental health and suicide prevention.

Visit TEAM Up for more information.