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A Time To Change

DV SpookyCat      Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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Five Tips for Admins: The Twenty Two


     Last week, I wrote about the purpose and efficacy of awareness campaigns. In the online veteran community, we use this to spread the word about resources, fundraisers, and to simply let vets know they’re not alone. BUT there is such a thing as going too far. In moderating and being a part of these communities, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of suicide contagion in social media. Long before the internet, countries discovered that reporting suicides led to a chain of suicides. Having one prominent in a television show would lead to copycats. Reports were banned, and suicide rates went down. Yet, today, a meme prominently using the word “suicide” on a veteran page, can and does lead to a multitude of veterans threatening and even defending the act. (Source)
     I think it is time to learn from history. So, here are some tips for our digital veteran community on broaching the 22 and behavioral contagion, without making it worse.
  1. Skip things that mention “suicide” as an end. i.e. “Suicide doesn’t just hurt one person.” Instead, focus on stories and memes of people who overcame hardship, rebuilt after crisis, or found a way to live with mental illness. (Source)
  2. Using the same example as above, avoid burdening despondent persons with guilt, shame, and grief, by telling them they’re hurting more people. They are aware. But feel that this is a smaller pain than their continued presence. Instead, focus on the positives of staying around. i.e. “We’re going to get you help and your family is going to be so glad to see you smile again.” (Source)
  3. Keep working on awareness campaigns for organizations that help despondent persons in getting help with mental health, physical health, and with stressors like finances and jobs. (Tool Kit for Admins)
  4. Stop sensationalizing. When you post, “this is why vets are killing themselves” you are sensationalizing and initiating a contagion chain. Yes, we know the VA/groups/pages/veterans have problems. BIG problems. Seemingly insurmountable problems. But when we use that to put a label on suicide, we are also telling despondent persons, “This is a good excuse, and no one will be mad if you do it because of…..” If you’re not sure I’m right, go back and look at the comments below news articles about the vets that have killed themselves in VA parking lots. No modality is too disturbing. Whether self-emolliated or shot, respondents and despondents only identify with the struggle and thus begins the contagion. (Source)
  5. Broaden your focus to improved health, nutrition, and lifestyle. These three factors are directly correlated with lowered suicide risk. Exercising three times a week has been proven to lower reporting of PTSD and depressive symptoms. With weight loss and improved health, individuals will be more receptive to other interventions. (Source)


     This is not a whole list of ideas, but a starting point. My final suggestion would be to do your own research and come up with other strategies. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel, but it’s safe to say that if what already exists was enough, we wouldn’t need it. Be creative.
Side Note: A second and equally virulent issue is called “behavioral contagion.” We’ve seen this happen when one person begins making crude or outright disgusting comments about rape, murder, racism, or abuse, and others join in. They will react [as a whole] to censure saying this is “normal” for this group, even if it is not normal and *most* feel that the subject matter they’re joking about is wrong. It is advisable to interrupt these behaviors as quickly as possible, by removing the offensive content, and refocusing other responses on positive outcomes. Every time I’ve seen this happen, I’ve seen suicidal ideations in the comments and private messages. This is especially true for rape survivors. (Source)


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Article written by: DV SpookyCat; She doesn't purr but she will tell you if you're an asshole.

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