LifeLine's online prevention strategy obviously extends to its own website, too. It has a gallery of survivor videos that are testimonials
made by people who have survived suicide attempts. Users are able to create an avatar when making their post, in order to maintain their anonymity.
Researchers and advocates of suicide prevention emphasize the importance of communicating survivor stories, rather than suicide completion in the
media. Madelyn Gould, professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University and expert in youth suicide, said that portraying suicide survivors
rather than focusing on completed cases in the media is more effective in reducing suicide contagion.
The Jed Foundation, an organization working to prevent suicide among college students, also uses social media as a core element of its prevention
strategy. John MacPhee, executive director, said, "There are a huge number of students who aren't talking about their distress. Social media is a
vehicle for communication and education to help understand what is going on with themselves or friends."
MacPhee is optimistic about the positive power of social media and said that he is "incredibly excited" by the possibilities it offers. One of the
projects the Foundation is working on is their "Love is Louder" campaign. The campaign, launched in 2010, aims to tackle issues of bullying and
negative self-image through sharing stories of how people have overcome these difficulties in their own lives. The main thrust of the campaign is a
strong online presence across a multitude of platforms. The campaign makes use of the account @loveislouder and the hashtag #loveislouder, which remarkably, continues to be appended to dozens of tweets a week. Followers are encouraged to write, "love is louder" on their hand and take a photograph of it and
tweet it out to their followers. The account currently has 45,000 followers.
Given all this activity by The LifeLine, Jed Foundation, and others, it's worth asking: does any of this stuff actually work to keep people, especially young adults, from killing themselves?
Robert Valois, professor of health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina, said it has the potential to make a
difference, but warns that it could also go the other way. "Teenagers want to be part of a group and if you can't make it into one, that's tough."
Valois, whose area of expertise is adolescent behavior, said this readily translates online. Not making friends in the cyber world, having a friend
request rejected or being the victim of cyber bullying, is just as damaging as their offline equivalents. By the same token, if you're struggling to fit
in and you find like-minded people and acceptance in an online community, Valois said that could bring great comfort to an adolescent: "It could save a