Suicide awareness campaigns

  1. Awareness campaigns in general in social media. They became popular once social media political initiatives were scientifically shown to be highly influential (The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change ). That’s unquestionable. However, here we are talking about organized virality orchestrated by an interest group (frequently a political party or movement). If it is not, it will not really be effective. In the case of suicide awareness, if one is engaged in some action organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (, for example, sure, it will be (more or less) effective. If one is just viralizing “whatever”, no, really it will not.
  2. The personal aspect of awareness. If it is not a call to action organized by well structured interest groups, awareness will only take place if readers/the audience is touched by a personal manifestation. Not surprisingly, some of the most effective actions in public policy responses to public pressure were triggered by victims or the victims loved ones (many laws take the name of that victim). My experience is that when I agreed, 15 years after the episode, to come out with my story about suicide (there is a story), there was a wave of reaction. As part of that, until now, six years after the interview, I have people write to me with their issues. And more than once I needed to consider mobilizing intervention: that’s what you need to do when you are not THERE, with the suicidal person. So yes, I believe in awareness initiatives and awareness campaigns, as long as they either fall into the first or the second category. Otherwise, it is just another “type ‘yes’ if you agree”; “Copy to your profile if you agree” or “Write ‘amen’ if you agree”. Why? Who is that going to help? How? Basically, it is just timeline garbage.
  3. Suicide prevention. I am sorry for the secondary victims, but suicide falls into the class of “stable social phenomena”. The rates don’t undergo spikes or radical changes. The chief reason for that is that the majority of suicides is associated with also “stable” (socially speaking) mental disorder. When we do have waves or areas with sudden increase in suicide rates, we need to look for the cause, which is usually related to great impact in communities’ social identity (as in a few Native American suicide waves all over the Americas – plural) or large scale trauma (combat related trauma, for example). That is where intervention can work in medium-term. Otherwise, we must understand suicide prevention is a (very) slow educational process and we have powerful forces that make it harder, such as the organized religions.

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