Responding to Mental Health Crises and Warning Signs on Social Media

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In recent weeks, your students may have learned of cases of youth livestreaming suicide on Facebook or other streaming sites. While this troubling phenomenon is hard for any of us to think about, this type of graphic content can have a particularly troubling effect on students who are already struggling with their own mental health concerns. Mental health staff should check in with students and inform parents of any raised concerns.

It is also a good time to remind all of your students of the messages of hope that you have instilled using the SOS Program. Remember: Suicide is never the solution, help is always available.

  • Remind students that there is always something they can do if they are concerned about something someone has said or done in person or online: ACT
  • Acknowledge that they are seeing warning signs and that it is serious
  • Care: show the person your concern
  • Tell a trusted adult  

Open up a conversation for students to talk about warning signs on social media. As you have likely experienced, many students bring forward concerns about what friends have posted on social media. Watching out for each other in person and online works! Encourage your students to think about specific steps they can take when they encounter warning signs online. Some examples include:

  • Reach out to their friend directly and ACT
  • Use the suicide prevention features on common social media sites (like FB and Instagram) to reach out
  • Seek help from their own parents or contact the friend’s parents
  • Seek help from adults at school
  • Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “HELLO” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741

Emergency situations can arise online. Students should always be encouraged to call 911 in any emergency.

If students in your school are talking about these livestreams, adults should insert themselves into the conversation so that you can guide the narrative. Any adult can facilitate a discussion with students. Mental health staff can reach out to teachers and administrators to provide training and guidance. A few thoughts on how to talk about this sensitive subject:

  • No matter what any video shows, we know that suicide is almost always associated with an underlying mental health condition- depression. Depression is treatable. Help is always available.
  • It is normal to be curious about these videos, but it is not healthy for people to watch this type of graphic content. To protect your own mental wellness, choosing not to watch is your best bet. If you do watch something that troubles you, come talk to an adult about it.
  • These types of videos can bring up all sorts of troubling emotions in people. Listen to your friends. If you are worried about anyone, contact an adult immediately.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to strategize the best way to talk to your students about this situation or if you have any other youth suicide prevention questions.

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