Using Social Media for Good: Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Beyond


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Nedra Kline Weinreich
Entertainment Industries Council, Inc.

Presented at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges Conference at Cal State Fullerton
October 11, 2013

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
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  • Content IssuesWhen linking to mental health information, use a reliable source. Misinformation is rampant online, so make sure you’re not spreading inaccurate information from sites that may be unreliable.If retweeting or sharing a link, look at it before passing it along. Assess whether it contains any inaccurate or stigmatizing content that works against your desired mental health messaging.Social interactions with people living with mental illness are the most effective way to reduce public stigma. If you are comfortable sharing information about your own mental health challenges and recovery process, using social media to matter-of-factly talk about your own experience can help online friends and followers gain a better understanding of mental illness.If the only time you post something related to mental health is when there has been a violent incident, consider also sharing more positive stories about people overcoming mental health challenges and succeeding in their recovery. The vast majority of people who are living with mental illness are never violent, and are in fact more likely to be victims than perpetrators.When you see someone else posting stigmatizing or disparaging content, say something! You have the power to influence how someone thinks about people living with mental illness, as well as influencing the other people who follow that person online. If it is a celebrity or corporate account, you have the opportunity to make an even bigger difference.Consider adding the phrase “[Trigger Warning]” when linking to graphic stories or images. Though the triggers vary that might cause someone with a history of trauma or addictive behaviors to experience a painful psychological response, a trigger warning may be appropriate for your audience. This may include graphic pictures or detailed descriptions of self-harm behaviors, sexual or violent assault, or disaster/battlefield situations. If on a blog, use a “cut” so that users must click a link to “Read more…” before seeing the potentially triggering content.
  • Privacy and Safety ConcernsGive careful consideration to your privacy online. While there are many good reasons why you might want to do so, sharing identifiable personal and health information is something you should not do lightly. Remember that what goes up online may be there forever.Never share other people’s mental health information without permission. If someone is already public about their mental health status and history online, it’s not an issue. However, if you have private information about someone, you do not have the right to post about it. If you are a mental health provider, you definitely are not allowed to provide any identifiable information about your clients.If you or someone you know are being harassed or bullied online… There are several things you can do to keep yourself or others in your community safe. Clearly tell the harasser to stop, then refrain from any further communications. If they continue, save the communications you receive from them and contact the appropriate service (e.g., social network site, internet service provider) to take action. If threats of violence have been made, you may need to involve law enforcement. Suicide Prevention and SafetyAvoid focusing your communications solely on the extent and consequences of suicide. Prevention efforts are more successful when sharing positive stories of hope and recovery, as well as examples of how others can provide support and assistance to people they know who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Calling it an “epidemic” or emphasizing dire statistics can make suicide seem more common and socially acceptable.Follow safe suicide communication guidelines. These recommendations were designed for journalists covering stories about suicide based on research that found that certain types of media reporting increased the risk of suicide contagion among vulnerable individuals. (See for details.) These guidelines (adapted for social media here) include:Don’t overdramatize the event or place “suicide” in the headline/title. (In headlines, “dies” is appropriate.)Avoid exact details on locations and methods. Avoid photos or videos of the location or method of death, as well as dramatic images of grieving family and friends or memorial services. The words “committed,” “succeeded” or “failed” are inaccurate and unhelpful. Appropriate wording is that someone died by suicide, took his life or killed herself.Don’t oversimplify. Suicide is complex and often has many factors. It is almost certainly inaccurate to cite a single cause as, for example, “recent money woes” or “a fight with a spouse.”Websites and bloggers should develop policies and procedures for safe comments and message board posts, and monitor for hurtful messages or comments from posters who may be in crisis. Share links to suicide prevention resources periodically and when someone in the news or an online community member has died by suicide. Appropriate hotlines and websites include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for the U.S. (, Samaritans for the UK (, or Befrienders Worldwide ( someone posts potentially suicidal content online, take action. They may or may not intend to follow through, but don’t take a chance. If you are comfortable doing so, reach out to the person online and find out how you can help or refer them to resources. Many social networks have a system in place to report suicidal content and get online help to that person. (See for instructions on various sites.)Keep an eye out for trending topics on Twitter and Facebook that may be related to the suicide of a celebrity or other well-known person. Post resources for people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts as a result of the news. Use the same hashtags or keywords that appear in the trending topics so your posts will be seen by those following the news.Be vigilant for suicide hoaxes that may spread quickly online. Do not retweet or repost information that has not been confirmed, and discourage others from doing so as well.Work with influencers in online fan communities who can help to quell rumors and spread accurate information when suicide hoaxes are spreading.   
  • Using Social Media for Good: Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Beyond

    1. 1. USING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR GOOD: MENTAL HEALTH, SUICIDE PREVENTION AND BEYOND Nedra Weinreich (@Nedra, @MediaTEAMup) Entertainment Industries Council
    2. 2. Our partners: Radio Television Digital News Association
    3. 3. Introducing Generation Next…  Three $4000 Cash Prizes: Film/TV, Journalism, & Social Media  Recognition at the 2014 PRISM Awards ceremony  Mentoring sessions with industry professionals and mental health experts  A collaborative program with Active Minds, a mental health organization led by college students  Curricular resources for faculty and students
    4. 4. Photo: Mr. T in DC (Flickr) How can you use social media to make a difference?
    5. 5. 1 in 4 will have a mental health issue CCPhoto:JesseVaughan
    6. 6. What can you do with social media? Communicate Converse Connect Collaborate/Co-Create Consumer Research Collect/Categorize Collective Wisdom Customize Customer Service Community
    7. 7. Photo:
    8. 8. Social media is word of mouth on steroids!
    9. 9. Photo:
    10. 10. Marketing is dead. We need to create movements instead. -Kevin Roberts Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Photo:
    11. 11. Strategy Roadmap 1. Goals/objectives 2. Target audience 3. Capacity 4. Tools and Tactics 5. Monitor and Evaluate Photo:
    12. 12. Step 1: What are Your Goals/Objectives?
    13. 13. Social Media Outcomes • Listening and learning • Building relationships • Building awareness of issue • Improving reputation of organization • Motivating content generation by supporters • Increasing relevant visitor traffic/page rankings • Increasing perceptions of social norms • Social support • Taking action Photo:
    14. 14. .75".75" .75".75"Step 2: Whom Do You Want to Reach?
    15. 15. Beth Kanter,
    16. 16. Slide Credit: Step 3: What is Your Organizational Capacity?
    17. 17. Free Puppy! (or is it?) pics/3411848285/
    18. 18. Step 4: Which Tools and Tactics Will Help You Reach Your Goals?
    19. 19. Choose the Right Tools • Listen – Google Alerts, RSS readers, Twitter Search • Converse – Twitter, Facebook, Blog s, G+ • Tell Your Story – Blogs, Twitter, G+, vide o/photo sharing, podcasts, Pinte rest • Help Supporters Tell Your Story – User generated content, contests, social • Generate Buzz – Twitter, Social news (eg Reddit), Tumblr, Pintere st • Build Community – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twi tter, G+, hashtags, Tum blr • Collaborate/Collect Information – Wikis, social bookmarking, hashtags
    20. 20. Step 5: Monitoring/ Evaluation • RSS Feed Reader • Google Alerts • Blog/News Monitoring • Twitter/FB Search • Website/Social Media Analytics
    21. 21. Social Media Tips for Mental Health/Suicide Prevention
    22. 22. Be Authentic Photo:
    23. 23. Be Relevant Photo: os/brewedfreshdaily89/28 24125234/
    24. 24. Love is Louder
    25. 25. Engage in Two-Way Conversation Photo:
    26. 26. Language Matters
    27. 27. Tips for Social Media Content • Share resources, tips, news, encouragement • Link to reliable sources. • Check links before passing them along. • Don’t only post about mental health when there has been a violent incident. • Positive stories of hope and recovery are powerful. • Social interactions reduce stigma.
    28. 28. Building an Online Community Photo:
    29. 29. Find Your Fans Photo:
    30. 30. Enable Evangelists
    31. 31. Online Safety and Privacy
    32. 32. Tell Your Story Across Platforms
    33. 33.
    34. 34. Social Media Resources
    35. 35. •Application deadline: November 30, 2013 •Semifinalists selected by December 6, 2013 •Final projects submitted by February 28, 2014 •PRISM Awards: April 24, 2014 Generation Next Competition
    36. 36. (866) 284-9767 @MediaTEAMup Questions?
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