11 Apr Social Media & Suicide Prevention
Good morning and thank you for having me.
In 1991, a young boy the age of eleven woke to the sobs of his older sister who was just told that her best friend’s younger brother had just hung himself in the family’s garage. This nine-year-old boy couldn’t understand what was happening or why he wouldn’t see David at school anymore.
David was kind and warm hearted. Even though he was older than that nine-year-old, he joked with him in the halls and laughed with him at lunch.
The nine-year-old went to the funeral with his sister and watched as David’s family shared stories and tried their best to say goodbye to such a young soul.
Twenty-five years later, that boy still drives past the cemetery hill where his friend David was buried, and that boy, now a man, wondering what life would have been like if someone had reach David before it was too late. What would David have been like as a man, as a father and a friend?
My name is Greg Daily. I am the founding partner of the Digital Image Group, a full-service digital marketing agency that launched last year. I have provided services to the largest driver’s education company in Colorado, Colorado Ballet, Regis University and, as some of you know, I now manage the marketing and communications for SPCC.
I am also a contributor to the largest social media marketing website in the world, Social Media Examiner.
You can find this talk, and my presentation notes, on my website at digitalimagegroup.org/spcc.
Sally asked me if I would be willing to come her today and share with you some of what is going on in the world of social media, as it pertains to suicide prevention and mental health, and I said that it would be my honor.
You see, this talk means a great deal to me personally, because I am that nine-year-old boy. I have spent my entire life driving past the hill where my friend is buried, wondering what could have been different.
Today, I would like to talk to you about four things:
- What social media leaders are doing right now to affect positive change in suicide prevention on social media.
- The scope of impact that social media has in people’s lives.
- How we at the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, and other organizations, are using social media to create safe and inclusive communities for suicide prevention advocates online.
- How you as leaders in the conversation and community can leverage these tools to engage people more effectively.
I’m sad to say that since January of this year, several people have broadcast their suicide on Facebook’s video streaming service Facebook Live, the youngest of which was only 12-years-old.
In response to these and other disturbing posts on the popular social media site, Facebook has partnered with organizations like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to develop a set of tools intended to help individuals considered ‘at risk’ for self-harm find resources and support.
The first of these tools is a new suicide-prevention feature that uses artificial intelligence to identify posts indicating suicidal or harmful thoughts. The AI scans the posts and their associated comments, compares them to others that merited intervention, and, in some cases, passes them along to its community team for review. The company plans to proactively reach out to users it believes are at risk, showing them a screen with suicide-prevention resources including options to contact a helpline or reach out to a friend.
While in some cases, the artificial intelligence software will notify the Facebook community if it flags a situation as “very likely urgent”, in most cases it will simply work in the background to offer messaging and advice to the friends and family of a person in need.
These activities have not gone unnoticed by Facebook leadership.
Let’s pause for a moment, and look at the scope of impact
that social media has on our society:
- 2.8 billion people were using social media by the end of 2016, up 21 percent from 2015.
- 83% of Americans have a social media account.
- The top five social media sites:
- SPCC is currently engaging audiences on 2 of these 5 sites.
- Facebook currently reports 1.86 billion active monthly users.
- Users used to be younger, 13-18, but the primary demographic of users now skews35+.
- Facebook is often used in a casual, after business hours, environment to check in with friends and family.
- The average user will spend 20 minutes a day on Facebook.
- Facebook search is starting to compete with Google in size.
- 50% of 18-24 year-olds login to Facebook right when they wake up in the morning. I can attest to this number since it’s what I used to do.
- Facebook generates over 8 billion video views per day.
- 300 million photos are uploaded onto Facebook every day.
- Twitter boasts over 974 million active Twitter accounts.
- 66% of businesses with 100+ employees have at least one Twitter account.
- There are more than 300 million active monthly Twitter users.
- An average of 6,000 tweets are sent every second, 350,000 per minute and 500 million per day.
- Twitter is a conversational site where people post comments and replies of only 140 characters in length. The messages can incorporate the now popular hashtag which pulls tweets into a single searchable stream of information connected by that hashtag.
- LinkedIn has more than 100 million actively monthly users.
- Linkedin is the social media site mostly used for professional services, such as hiring employees and displaying resumes and corporate information.
- LinkedIn also has professional groups, some in the tens of thousands of members, that stretch across the globe.
- Instagram has more than 600 million actively monthly users.
- Instagram is a social media site for sharing photos and videos.
- Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and has since grown the site to one of the most used social media sites by millennials.
- Instagram also uses hashtags, which connect images and videos.
- Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it is likely that Instagram will also begin using the same algorithm to monitor ‘at risk’ behavior.
- YouTube is the social media video sharing site, owned by Google, with more than 1 billion monthly visitors.
- Through special treatment on search by Google, the site has grown to become the second largest search engine on Earth.
It isn’t all doom and gloom on social media, however.
Sites like the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado, The Mighty and To Write Love on Her Arms are using social media to engage audiences with messages of help and hope.
We at SPCC are on two of the top five social media sites, Facebook and Twitter. We use both sites to share our news, promote events and attract potential members. We answer questions as well as share news and information from other national sources and do whatever we can with the resources available to engage communities.
TWLOHA: To Write Love On Her Arms is a site that offers hope and help to those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
- They have a beautiful website, a Facebook following of 1.5 million and a Twitter following of nearly 300k.
- Part of what I feel that they are doing well is sharing individual stories of hope and recovery. Even Mark Zuckerberg mentions how much we are all looking to connect with individuals like ourselves; we are looking for shared experiences. TWLOHA is giving people the opportunity to share their experiences.
The Mighty: “We face disability, disease and mental illness together.”
- Their blog boasts “Real people. Real stories.” with more than 5,000 contributors and over 150 mil readers.
- They also have a Facebook following of more than 750k and a Twitter audience of 37k.
- Once again, this is a site that focuses their efforts on shared experiences. Individuals struggling with disability, disease and mental illness write in and share their stories of hope and recovery.
- One of their top posts about suicide that was shared more than 250,000 times was of one woman’s memory of when Robin Williams bumped into her at an airport just after her husband’s suicide, and only weeks before taking his own life.
Bell Canada: is a telephone company in Canada that is running a “Let’s Talk” campaign that is dedicated to raising $100 million for mental health programs by 2020.
The question now is: How do we connect with people?