Social networks and suicide

Today the Sunday Independent had a bit about Facebook Memorials and a suicide expert decrying them, though I think they meant Bebo Memorials.

To me Dan Neville’s comments seemed quite balanced, he gives out about the memorials but he also says the bad old days where suicide was not talked about should be left in the past. The Indo put their twist to it. Yeah, I too was surprised at that.

“The Bebo and Facebook tributes that are going on at the moment are not appropriate at all because they are allowing people in crisis to involve themselves in events after the suicide and that can be extremely dangerous.”

“I would be extremely concerned about guards of honour by school friends and sports clubs at the funerals of suicide victims — not because the person involved should not be recognised for what they did, but because it also gives a signal of attention and recognition.

“Someone in crisis looking at these guards of honour and Bebo and Face Book tributes might say to themselves ‘look my crisis will be over and I will get this type of attention or send off, or recognition of my life from my peers,'” Mr Neville said.

Banning teenagers from doing something, though? That’s going to do what? If Bebo pages in memory of someone that killed themselves are taken down in order to prevent more suicides it’s not going to work. That kids create them means that there’s a need for them to remember their friends. Why not instead have links to suicide prevention campaigns and links to people on Bebo that people can message if they have a problem. Suicidal people will find out these memorials be they on Bebo or elsewhere, they’ll come there and maybe you can intervene there. There’s a greater chance of interevention there than out in some dark corner of the web.

The scary thing about suicide though is that it’s contagious in a way and I remember hearing someone on Morning Ireland (maybe it was Neville himself) talking about news reports on suicides can actually trigger people into considering it. This is why there are suicide clusters in areas.

Neville talks about banning these memorials but these memorials are where people are going to remember their friends. It would surely be like trying to ban talk of their friends in the classroom or pub or when they mope around in groups in shopping centres. Instead of banning them, why not establish guidelines with the community that create them?

5 Responses to “Social networks and suicide”

  1. Piaras Kelly says:

    In fairness to Neville, in my opinion he is suggesting that these pages/memorials are adding to the contagiousness. There’s a good section on this behaviour in the Tipping Point that I need to read up on.

    TBH of greater concern is the media reporting of suicides and in particular their referencing of social networking sites. For example, the Indo wrote about one of the recent suicide vicitms and comments he made on a page (which has since been removed). The paper subsequently received a letter from someone who knew the vicitm who was disturbed by their report as it misrepresented his comments in their opinion.

  2. Damien says:

    I was thinking of Gladwell alright when he talked about those Islanders but Neville suggesting banning potential contagions is the same as the old days where the subject was not talked about at all. Mentioning suicide without even glorifying it is a contagion anyway.

  3. ken says:

    Alcohol is implicated in a vast number of suicides so should we ban alcohol? No, because we know that prohibiton does not work.
    Why not dig a bit deeper and tackle the common stress factors often present in clusters. Cluster cases have a lot more in common than the initial suicide. If you look deeper they might go to the same school for example. Does the school have an ethos of developing pupils or an authoritarian, results only ethos.
    Is the geographic area socialy deprived etc etc
    hysterical,missinformed action has never worked and always fails to address the true nature of the problem.
    It just dawned on me that as I work with suicidal people I too am in danger of the contagion using that line of thought.

  4. concerned parent says:

    I think Bebo is almost as ubiquitous as the telephone among a certain age group. Inevitably it will transpire that teenagers who commit suicide have been active on Bebo, just as an adult suicide victim may have communicated by telephone. Drawing a conclusion that Bebo has caused the suicide is a bit like blaming the telephone.

  5. steve white says:

    bebo does ahve links to suicide prevention helpers desn’t it.