11 September 2019

Guidelines to talking safely online about suicide now available to Facebook’s 2.4 billion users

Guidelines to talking safely online about suicide now available to Facebook’s 2.4 billion users

Guidelines developed by Orygen to support young people in communicating safely online about suicide have been made available this week to Facebook’s 2.41 billion users.

The guidelines, called #chatsafe: a young person’s guide for communicating safely online about suicide, can be accessed through Facebook’s safety centre.

The guidelines are the first to be informed by evidence and were developed by Orygen’s suicide prevention team, in partnership with young people. Their availability on Facebook has coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day, 10 September.

Associate Professor Jo Robinson, head of suicide prevention research at Orygen, said there previously had been little information available to help young people safely discuss suicide online. “Young people use social media all the time to talk about suicide-related thoughts, feelings and behaviours,” Dr Robinson said.

“It’s really challenging, because although young people don't do that with any intent to cause harm or distress to others, we know that certain types of communication about suicide can lead to contagion or copycat-type instances. So rather than to take the view that you shouldn't talk about suicide on social media, we decided that it was important to develop some safety guidelines for young people who are talking online about this topic.

Dr Robinson said the #chatsafe guidelines were first released in August 2018 and Facebook, which had provided some in-kind support for their co-design with young people, had seen their value in supporting their users navigate online conversations about suicide.

“World Suicide Prevention Day has provided an opportunity for Facebook to add the #chatsafe guidelines to its platform; we’re really pleased this resource is now more readily available to young people from all over the world.

Dr Robinson said her team was now looking to globalise the guidelines, developing culturally appropriate and translated guidelines in up to 10 languages.

The guidelines are intended to support young people who might be responding to suicide risk or suicide-related content posted by others, for young people who might be looking for information about support or help for suicidal feelings, or for those who might want to share online their own feelings and experiences with suicide.

Dr Robinson also hopes the guidelines will be useful for people who support young people, such a parents, teachers and mental health professionals.

As well as providing advice on how to communicate on memorial posts and celebrity suicides, the guidelines also provide tips on appropriate language and images to use, how to share personal experience of suicidal behaviour, and guidance on how to respond to someone who may be suicidal.

Development of the #chatsafe guidelines was funded by the Australian Government, under the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program.