Tag Archives: social media

Don’t Panic: Get the Facts…

Today at school, I was asked about “Blue Whale” — an alleged social media phenomena that is supposedly “going viral” and encouraging teens to commit suicide. Since I am teaching a Suicide Prevention Workshop tonight I thought I’d better do some quick checking in case it comes up.

One thing for certain, the media is having a field day with it. Many of the headlines and claims in the articles being published turn out to be “unproven.”  There is general agreement an “ap” (game) originated in Russia that encourages “vulnerable” teens to engage in a series of tasks (like cutting) and allegedly ends with them taking their own life.  The word “vulnerable” is very important in that sentence.

A game will not “cause” someone to commit suicide. Certainly, a game such as this is cause for concern, but it is not cause for panic. There actually have been no conclusive links between suicides and the game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–they are known for their accurate reporting, right?

What can happen is that a person already having suicidal thoughts may find a game or group that they perceive shares their thoughts and feelings. The roots of those thoughts and feelings are not caused by joining a group or playing a game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–known for their accuracy!

The energy that will be spent warning people about this “Blue Whale” would be better spent developing a basic understanding of suicide and it’s prevention. Most of the workshops I offer are free and are research-based. We need to understand and focus on protective factors and the fundamental causes. Personally, I believe early intervention is going to be the key to correcting this public health crisis.  When we understand the risk factors and triggers we can recognize the need.

The techniques covered in the workshop are basic and relatively simple. Perhaps not quite as simple as clicking “share” on Facebook, but they are about sharing.

One of the better “fact checking” sites is here, but you might be better served to research the facts regarding suicide and how you can help prevent it. The life you save may belong to someone you love.

Say Something! -- preventing violence before it happens:

This article is reprinted from the “Say Something” website… while I haven’t fully “vetted” this program, if your school or organization is interested, I will be happy to assist you… I also have the material and can teach the Eddie Eagle Program — a gun safety program designed for pre-k through fourth grade.


Did you know that when it comes to violence, suicide and threats, most are known by at least shp_2016_say_something_week_logoone other individual before the incident occurs. In fact, in 4 out of 5 school shootings, the attacker told people of his/her plans ahead of time. Additionally, 70% of people who commit suicide told someone of their plans or gave some type of warning or indication. Imagine how much tragedy could be averted if these individuals said something?

Say Something teaches students, grades 6 -12, how to look for warning signs, signals and threats, especially in social media, from individuals who may want to hurt themselves or others and to Say Something to a trusted adult to get them help. The program is based on research conducted by Dr. Dewey Cornell and Dr. Reid Meloy, two leading national experts in threat assessment and intervention.

National Say Something Week is organized by Sandy Hook Promise (http://www.sandyhookpromise.org) and will take place October 24 – 28, 2016. Hundreds of schools and youth organizations across the United States will be participating in Say Something Week. Will you join them?

Say Something Week raises awareness and educates students and the community through training, media events, advertising, public proclamations, contests and school awards. Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and Say Something to a trusted adult to protect a friend from hurting them self or others!

Say Something is a no-cost and easy to implement program that is available to all middle schools, high schools and youth organizations serving youth grades 6 – 12. In addition to young people, Say Something will benefit educators, administrators, community-based organization leaders and parents. By building a culture of looking out for one another and reporting possible threats of violence when someone sees, reads or hears something, entire communities will become safer and lives will be saved.

Schools and youth organizations participating in Say Something Week agree to host a no cost, easy to implement, flexible Say Something training that can take place within the classroom, an assembly, or be led by student ambassadors. The training can be accomplished in 50 minutes or less and activities (which SHP provides or schools and organizations can create) can take place on one day or spread throughout the week. In addition to the initial training, the Say Something program offers a wide range of post training activities that can be done throughout the year and serve as reminders. Schools and youth organizations have the option of choosing the day, time and format they would like to deliver the Say Something training during the week of October 24 – 28.

Please help us empower our young people to prevent violence before it takes place. Please sign up to participate in Say Something week today at: http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/saysomethingweek.

Who is Sandy Hook Promise?
Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. We are led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and 6 educators.


Sandy Hook Promise is focused on preventing gun violence (and all violence) before it happens. SHP does this by educating and mobilizing parents, schools and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene and help at-risk individuals.

SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization. Our intent is to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. For more information on Sandy Hook Promise, please visit:www.sandyhookpromise.org.


Read a chapter from my book regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year—maybe not!

frustrated_at_my_desk_400_clr_8478It may seem counter-intuitive, but for many people the holiday season is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. There are many reasons why a person might experience the “holiday blues” and it’s an especially difficult time of the year for those who suffer from clinical depression. Feeling “down” during the holidays can be especially trying because there’s the sense that everyone else is feeling merry.

Regular readers know that I’ve spent the past year becoming gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health First Aid Specialist for both youth and adults. I did this in a large part so I could offer the training required to bring folks into compliance with the recent law (LD 609) that requires all Maine school employees to receive basic suicide prevention education.*

One of the things I learned during my training was that Facebook has a system in place that allows users to report posts that reflect bullying or the potential for self-harm. This was, it seemed to me, a fairly well-kept secret. I intend to include it in any training I offer and, hopefully, “spread the word.”

So this morning, I decided to “vet” the process before I shared it with you. I have good news and bad news. The good news is most social media platforms have taken suicide prevent seriously. The bad news is that, true to form, Facebook has changed the methodology several times since introducing it several years ago. While it’s still relatively easy to report, it’s not exactly intuitive.

If you see a post that raises some concerns (examples would be hopelessness, despair, obsessive thoughts about death) on Facebook, you may click the down arrow at the top right of that post. Next click on the drop down menu “report photo (or post).” On the next drop down, click “I think it shouldn’t be…” On the next drop down, click “Something else.” This will finally take you to the option of reporting the potential for self-harm. These steps “worked” as of this morning, December 2, 2015.

Personally, I think it should be easier. Frankly, I also have some concerns about whether or not it truly generates action. On unrelated issues I’ve found Facebook less than responsive. Supposedly a “team of experts” will immediately take action and reach out to the poster with an offer to chat, resources, etc.

I’d therefore encourage anyone who sees a post that creates concern to reach out personally with an offer to talk and listen, encouraging the poster to call a hotline. This might sound scary, but compassion and caring are all that are required to intervene—you do not have to be an “expert.”

An important resource is the Facebook Help Center—the link is https://www.facebook.com/help/594991777257121/ and it’s worth visiting before you need it. This link should take you directly to the safety resources page covering suicide prevention, bullying, etc.

Another resource can be found at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/online.aspx where you’ll find links to methods for other social media such as Twitter, YouTube, etc.

Information and course dates will be posted soon. The two-hour program is designed to raise awareness about suicide risk factors and warning signs and to provide information on what steps to take if suicide is suspected. While focused on students and youth, the information and skills learned are appropriate for use with anyone who might be feeling suicidal, no matter what their age.

Hotline Numbers