Suicide Prevention Gets Help From Social Networking and Tech Tools

A revised strategy for preventing suicide reflects new information and tactics.

New tactics for suicide prevention were unveiled recently that reflect new research and tactics. (Photo: Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

Sep 13, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Social media and mobile device apps are just some of the new tools in the arsenal to prevent suicides, unveiled this week by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin.

The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention updates the previous plan from 2001 and includes the latest information on suicide research, prevention and programs. Suicide has been in the spotlight lately, due to high numbers among active soldiers and veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome and other ordeals of combat.

“It takes the entire community to prevent suicides,” Reuters quoted Benjamin as saying. “It's not just one individual. We call can play a role.”

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Taking part in the press conference was the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (which worked with the Surgeon General’s office to produce the strategy) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Another ally is Facebook—the popular social networking site allows users to report any comments or posts that are suicidal. The site then follows up with the poster, giving them counseling resources.

Ten years ago apps didn’t exist; now they can used for suicide prevention. Last year the Tennessee National Guard debuted its smartphone app for soldiers that gives them a support network and professional counseling around the clock.

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An overview of the new plan called suicide a “serious public health problem that causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide.”

Some of the goals of the new plan include speaking to the needs of vulnerable groups, encouraging public dialog and tailoring messages to various communities.

According to a study from the U.S. Army Public Health Command, there’s been an 80 percent rise in suicides among Army staff from 2004 to 2008, ABC News reported. A recent Mayo Clinic Proceedings article says that the U.S. Army’s suicide rate is higher than that of the general population.

"We now know what we didn't know 15 years ago—or we didn't understand—which is that suicide is preventable,” Benjamin said in the Reuters story. “So prevention is where we're focusing now.”

Have you helped a friend or family member who theatened to commit suicide? Let us know in the comments.

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