21 August 2018

#chatsafe: world-first guidelines help young people talk safely online about suicide

#chatsafe: world-first guidelines help young people talk safely online about suicide

The world’s first guidelines to support young people in communicating safely online about suicide have been released today by Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

The guidelines, called #chatsafe:  A young person’s guide for communicating safely online about suicide, are the first to be informed by evidence and were developed in partnership with young people.

Dr Jo Robinson, head of suicide prevention research at Orygen, said there previously had been little information available to help young people safely discuss suicide online. “Young people use social media all the time to talk about suicide-related thoughts, feelings and behaviours,” Dr Robinson said.

“It’s really challenging, because although young people don't do that with any intent to cause harm or distress to others, we know that certain types of communication about suicide can lead to contagion or copycat-type instances. So rather than to take the view that you shouldn't talk about suicide on social media, we decided that it was important to develop some safety guidelines for young people who are talking online about this topic,”

The guidelines are intended to support young people who might be responding to suicide risk or suicide-related content posted by others, for young people who might be looking for information about support or help for suicidal feelings, or for those who might want to share online their own feelings and experiences with suicide.

Dr Robinson also hopes the guidelines will be useful for people who support young people, such a parents, teachers and mental health professionals.

As well as providing advice on how to communicate on memorial posts, the guidelines also provide tips on appropriate language and images to use, how to share personal experience of suicidal behaviour, and guidance on how to respond to someone who may be suicidal.

Zoe, a youth participant in the development of the guidelines, said young people were talking about suicide every day on social media.

“Social media is just going to keep growing and we use it every day. So, we need these guidelines now, more than ever,” Zoe said.

Dr Robinson said the guidelines were easy to use, easy to access and incorporate the ideas and first-hand experiences of young people. “We really believe that by equipping young people with the skills to have these conversations safely, we will be able to save young lives.”

The work has is funded by the Australian Government, under the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program.

The guidelines are available to download here.