Follow rules on preventing destruction on social networks

By Caitriona McMahon  @Caitriona_Mac

Social media has come such a long way since the good old Bebo days and we now post pictures and share statuses that capture audiences within a matter of seconds.

But as with everything there is also a responsibility that comes with using such a powerful tool.

Today I want to speak about sharing posts on suicide or self harm on social media.

What many might be unaware of is how we need to be particularly mindful of those that read what we write.

We all feel things are getting on top of us at times.

For example from time to time chain letters or posts emerge, all with the best of intentions but the wording can sometimes be extremely damaging to anyone in emotional distress.

I know myself depending on my mental health at the time I have to abstain from reading certain posts in case it would trigger destructive thoughts.

A lot of stigma exists around mental health and my intention is not to scare people away from talking or discussing these topics but instead to encourage people to continue talking and sharing while at the same time being aware of the importance of not going into specific methods etc.

A taboo used to exist that by using the word suicide you would place or plant the idea in someone’s head. This is in fact UNTRUE.

The reality being the opposite, that if you speak to someone or open the conversation around suicide they are most likely going to feel comfortable enough speaking to you if they ever felt that way.

The more we begin conversations about mental health the more stigma we reduce.  It’s vital we carry on the conversation.

Have you ever heard of a trigger in relation to thought patterns? Triggers can cause immense distress for a sufferer.

A trigger is defined as “…an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.”

Headline Ireland are The National Media Monitoring Programme For Mental Health and Suicide and they have guidelines on how media should report on incidents.

These guidelines prevent damaging words/images being published.

So my question is should we not follow the same guidelines when sharing on social media given the reach any one post could have?

With that in mind what can we do to be mindful of those reading our social media posts?

1. Avoid mentioning methods or going into explicit detail when posting about self harm/suicide.

2. Pre read any chain posts before sharing to ensure they do not contain triggering material or images.

3. Avoid labelling areas as hotspots.

4. Always include details of further sources of information, help and advice.

By taking on board these points we can make the social media world that little bit safer. Please feel free to check out Headline Ireland and all the great work they do.

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