Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Unsafe Messaging in Film Project

Republished with permission by guest blogger: Jess Stohlmann
Dear Colleagues,
I wanted to take a moment to give you all some information about a video that is traveling around on social media called ‘Love is All You Need?’. The people who worked on the project clearly had very good intentions, and I understand the LGBT community’s concerns with both bullying and suicide. Both bullying and suicide are difficult, complex issues that we face as a community. There is great work being done to improve the lives of young people and adults who are impacted by mental health issues and bullying. We know that there are safe and unsafe ways to address these issues in the media. ‘Love Is All You Need?’ takes an approach that, while emotionally powerful, is incredibly unsafe. Below I have outline the unsafe messaging in the film: 
  1. The film identifies  suicide as an understandable result of bullying. This could cause bullied youth to feel that suicide is normal and acceptable for individuals experiencing bullying and increase their vulnerability.
  2. The film includes a detailed portrayal of a lethal suicide method. It explicitly shows a graphic portrayal of a suicide death that vulnerable individuals could replicate.
  3. The film does not list warning signs for suicide. In fact, it portrays suicide as an impulsive act in response to a particular life event. Listing warning signs and protective factors encourages others to intervene when someone is at risk.
  4. The film does not address the fact that suicide can be prevented.
  5. The film does not emphasize help-seeking behavior or provide resources like the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK)
  6. The film does not emphasize the effective treatment for the underlying mental health problems with which 90% of suicidal individuals struggle.
 As a community, we should really be talking about bullying and suicide in different, more productive ways. We know that helping students to stand up for each other and intervene when a person is struggling will help assuage both of these social issues. By providing students the tools to seek help when they need it for themselves (Safe2Tell and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline), intervene when they are concerned for someone else (bystander intervention and asking their peers about their mental health), and to involve adults when things seem out of their control, many lives can be saved and improved. Focusing on positive messaging around healthy behavior is the best way to achieve the social changes that we all want for our youth. If you want to post something about bullying or suicide, please include resources and use safe messaging practices. In order to keep this video from continuing to be in the spotlight, remove it from your social media, ask others to do the same, and avoid playing it on YouTube, liking it, sharing it, or commenting on it.
You can find safe messaging guidelines here. Please feel free to forward this message to any of your contacts.