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Dec 10

Finding my Passion – Social Networking and Suicide

It’s the end of the semester! And I think I’ve found my passion!
(It seems other students have found theirs as well – ranging from working with clients with STIs to counseling multi-tour veterans with TBI or PTSD)

Granted, I’ve known for a while that I want to work with depressed and suicidal adolescents. (I was one of the few lucky ones in undergrad that had an idea of the client base I wanted from the get-go.) But in terms of research and advocacy, internet/social networking use and the positive and negative impacts of it for teens that struggle with depression, anxiety and suicide ideation has piqued my interest.

For our Introduction to Counseling and Ethics course, we had to do a  research paper and I had the opportunity to focus my studies on this area. I found some eye-opening articles and information on the subject that I thought I’d quickly share with those of you that read this. Perhaps something will resonate with you and you’ll be moved to take action as well…

  • There are over 100,000 websites that feature forums or message boards, videos and graphic information detailing how an individual could commit suicide and within the first few results after an initial search for methods on popular search engines, you can access links to about a quarter of those sites.
  • Certain social networks have features that allow users to be anonymous and consequently harass other users and there are little to no moderators on post content. Cyberbullying and its relation to suicide is one consequence that has become quite the hot topic in the media lately thus making parents and caregivers of children and adolescents wary about social networking use.
  • When you search “suicide” and related terms in both Google and Yahoo, the first item that comes up before search results is contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. (This is a small step towards making the internet a safe place for those struggling.)
  • You can be a part of e-counseling (either as the professional or as the client), crisis intervention training, and disorder screening/evaluation…all online at the click of a mouse and these services are particularly beneficial to those in rural communities.

That being said, I’m growing interested in raising awareness about such benefits and detriments of use. Adolescents with emotional and psychological problems are already burdened enough as it is, they need to have access to encouragement and the wealth of health and hope-oriented resources available online rather than the in-your-face information on maladaptive behavior and ideation forums. Perhaps we can find ways to both moderate the negative uses and promote health-oriented use of the internet and social networking for struggling adolescents and make the internet a safer place for them that way.

I could go on forever about this topic – which I suppose is a sign of my passion. But, that’s all for now.
Time to study for finals!

With hope,