Social media users urged to consider rising suicide rates

LIFELINE and one of the country’s top mental health experts have urged social media to take greater responsibility as suicide rates in Australia hit a 10-year high.

Lifeline national manager, media and government relations, John Mendel said the memory of Charlotte Dawson was still “fresh”.

And Adjunct Associate Professor John Mendoza, the inaugural chair of the National Advisory Council of Mental Health, said Facebook and Twitter were like “council parks” and someone needed to ensure a “safe environment”.

Their comments were made after the Sunshine Coast’s contestant on the Nine Network’s The Voice, Louise Van Veenendaal, received a battering on social media for her performance on Tuesday night.bigstock-Apple-iPhone-with-Social-Media-22890494

Mr Mendel said Ms Dawson “frequently talked about cyber bullying in reference to her” in the lead-up to her suicide in February.

“Myriad people have also been contacting Lifeline in the past years as a result of bullying, particularly on social media,” he said.

“The ABS statistics reveal suicide in Australia has reached a 10-year peak. I wouldn’t draw a direct correlation with that and bullying, but it is not helpful.”

Mr Mendoza said there was a “collective outbreak (of people) forgetting social mores”.

“This is the danger with the anonymity social media provides,” he said.

“People aren’t prepared to put their names to tweets or blogs.

“They seem to believe not saying it face-to-face doesn’t matter.”

He said platforms such as Twitter and Facebook had become more responsible in this regard, working with relevant Australian bodies in suicide prevention and youth mental health areas.

“Providing the platform is no different to the council providing a park,” he said.

“There is a moral – if not a legal – responsibility to provide a safe environment for people to participate.”

This article first appeared on ‘The Queensland Times’ on 29 May 2014.

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