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.
This post is appearing on Facebook… almost to the point of going viral. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but my question is a little different.
Would three of my friends please attend a free two-hour workshop that will help you understand some facts about suicide and some very simple steps you can take to help prevent it?
You can do more than just provide a phone number!
I currently have two free workshops scheduled:
Thursday, May 11, 2017, at Bangor Grange, 1192 Ohio Street in Bangor, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street in Guilford starting at 6:30 p.m.
Both workshops are free–all it costs is two hours of your time–admittedly a little more than copying and pasting a phone number, but in return for those two hours you’ll be able to help stem this crisis. 93% of students who’ve attended my class say they feel more confident about being able to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors. 85% left feeling better equipped to help someone might seem suicidal.
And you’ll get a magnet that includes both the National and Maine Hotline Numbers as well as lots of resource material. In order to ensure we have plenty of material, we do ask you to pre-register by visiting our website or calling 343-1842.
But wait, there’s more! A third workshop is available through the RSU 19 Adult Education Program on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at Nokomis High School in Newport. There is a small charge for this program… for more information or to register, visit http://rsu19.maineadulted.org/ or call 207 368-3290.
And even more! Did you know that you can report Facebook Posts that seem to reflect suicidal thoughts? Here’s how!
Walter Boomsma is Gatekeeper trained and a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. He is also an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.
The song tells us “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” but that’s not always the case. While it may seem counter-intuitive during a “season of joy,” there can be moments when we are overwhelmed and even anxious. We may find ourselves feeling we’re not “measuring up.”
I’ve noticed a recent trend on Facebook whereby people are posting the suicide hotline phone numbers and encouraging others to do the same. That’s not a bad thing but we can each be a “warm line” and perhaps prevent a crisis. All it takes is some sensitivity to those around us and a willingness to intervene–even in subtle ways.
If you sense that someone is feeling the holiday blues, look at this infographic, especially tip #4, from the perspective of providing some relief–think of that person’s need as a call to your warm line. Make some time for that person to “love and support” him or her. You can take him or her ice skating (tip #3). Understand, of course, that it’s not specifically about ice skating, it’s about exercise and a change of scenery.
My theme for 2017 is going to be “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Inviting that harried friend to take some time out for a cup of coffee or cocoa may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference. Just yesterday I was at a gathering of colleagues for lunch. I was the last to leave and when I went to pay my check, I was informed that it had been paid. It was an act that has “stuck with me” not because of the dollars, but because of the simple kindness and sense of connection it provided.
One of the hazards of this season is that perceived demands of “getting things done” means we don’t always take the time to genuinely connect. I was at a school holiday concert last night where my self-appointed role is that of unofficial photographer. During a lull in the photos, I stood at the back of the room. Two little girls came over and one said, “Mr. Boomsma, will you come out in the hall and play with us?” I explained that I couldn’t but a big part of me wishes I had–if only for a few minutes. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure they weren’t suffering the holiday blues. They were simply bored.
Connecting is such an important part of self-care (see tip #1). Best of all, when we connect at least two people benefit. Keep your warm line open. The ring may be subtle–keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to answer. You’ll be glad you did.
The phone rang yesterday and a number I didn’t recognize appeared on the screen. Usually, that means “junk,” but I answered anyway.
The caller began talking rapidly and it became clear we were going to suffer a language barrier, but since she used the word “suicide” I knew it wasn’t a junk call.
Slowing the conversation and lots of repeating revealed that the caller was associated with a school and her question was, “I know you do suicide training for teachers, but would you do it for parents?”
I of course answered, “Yes!” My mind racing ahead to consider the idea of a school sponsoring a program for parents. I’m often approached by parents who are concerned about their kids but this was truly a first. Hmmm…
As we explored the idea, it occurred to me to ask where she was from. She replied, “Brooklyn, NY.” It didn’t occur to me to ask how and why she’d decided to call me in Central Maine. I was just glad she called.
I was able to refer her to some more localized resources using my NAMI connection and encouraged her to call again if I could help further. I hope she has success putting something together. I confess I felt a bit smug that I got the call–even though I don’t know how she found me. But I felt even smugger that the conversation around suicide prevention is becoming increasing normalized and easy to have.
If we are open to learning, the unofficial opportunities always abound! A curious and inquiring mind drives personal development, even during this holiday driven month! The official opportunities in December are, however, limited!
For real estate licensees
I am teaching two continuing education courses this month. On Tuesday, December 6 at the Ramada Inn, Bangor:
9:00 A.M. Ethical Behavior in the Real Estate Business
1:00 P.M. Core Course for Brokers and Associate Brokers 2
I’ve already scheduled a Substitute Teacher Workshop with MSAD 53 Adult Ed (Pittsfield) and RSU 19 Adult Ed (Newport). I hope to have the complete schedule soon… The first will be in January in Pittsfield!
Suicide Awareness and Prevention Training
Thanks to Guilford United Methodist Church for hosting workshops this fall… and to the folks who attended! We’ll be offering opportunities again at GUMC… working on the schedule as this is written and will likely include some “after school” opportunities based on the success with the one we offered this fall. Workshops will also be scheduled with MSAD 53 and RSU 19 as a follow on to the Substitute Teacher Workshops. If your organization or group is interested in an on-site program, please let me know!
Stay tuned… there’s more to come!
Walter Boomsma (“Mr. Boomsma”) writes on a wide array of topics including personal development, teaching and learning. Course information is also available here!