David Stuart

Log on to save lives: How Facebook can help young Aussies

FACEBOOK could stop our young people from taking their own lives.

Researchers from Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, hope a social media experiment will stem the tide of adolescent suicide deaths.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in young Australians aged 15-24.

Orygen recently rolled out a project that uses two groups of Melbourne high school students affected by suicide.

The adolescents spent two months creating their own suite of suicide prevention concepts including memes, inspirational postcards and short films created on smartphones that will then be posted on a range of social media including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

MORE: Women who self-harm increasing, data shows

Orygen research leader Dr Jo Robinson said there was evidence social media could save lives.

"(During our research) we found a couple of examples where people had posted comments on Twitter or Facebook that indicated they were at immediate risk," Dr Robinson said.

"Those posts actually allowed people to intervene, often successfully, in those suicide attempts.

Dr Robinson said allowing young people to create and control adolescent-focused messages could prove vital in keeping alive kids on the edge.

"We hear lots about the potential risks of social media when it comes to suicide but we are looking it at it from the point of view that social media is not going anywhere.

"Young people use social media a lot to talk about their suicide-related thoughts or feelings with other young people.

"They really find that they benefit from sharing their experiences in a non-judgmental and non-stigmatised environment - they like to talk to other young people, they like to support other young people and they really value the peer to peer aspect and the authenticity of it."

Dr Robinson was a speaker at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Tasmania on July 27-28.

If you or someone you know needs help, phone Lifeline on 131 114; the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.


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