Promoting Hope, Preventing Suicide

Research and advice on preventing teen and adult suicide

Facebook Support Networks

Another way that social media can be for social good

Yesterday, my friend lost her sister to suicide.

In order to understand what I'd like to tell you about my friend Alison, I need to tell you some details of what's happened over the past week. Initially, Alison's sister Lauren survived her suicide attempt. Lauren was revived by emergency medical personnel and taken to a hospital intensive care unit. Doctors gave her a poor prognosis and monitored her for several days. Last night, the family decided to take their daughter and sister off of life support. As Alison said, Lauren died peacefully not long after being taken off life support.

When I first heard from Alison last week, she mentioned that Lauren had posted a message to Facebook before her attempt. I mention Lauren's Facebook post because Facebook is how I've followed Lauren and Alison's story.

Alison contacted me on Facebook not long after Lauren's attempt. She updated friends in real-time about where she was, what she was thinking, and what she needed. Friends posted messages of support, stories of their own experiences, and information that might be helpful to Alison and her family.

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Alison created a virtual support network unlike any I've seen. She's in Texas, her family's in Florida, and her friends are all over the word. Over the past week, as her family has confronted very real questions about life and death, she has brought her friends around her.

She also did something that I think is incredibly brave. She, from the very start, was honest about Lauren's suicide attempt. No matter what, I am sure that her friends would have rallied around her with support. But, I think her openness about what would be the cause of her sister's death helped others be more open to her.

She not only created a support network that she could use throughout this terrible week, but she created a network that now knows her as a survivor of suicide. Now, in the aftermath of her sister's death, she has a network of people who already know, who have had time to think through their feelings and fears, and who can be there for her and her family.

One of the gifts my Jewish tradition has given me is the idea that the memory of a person who has died can be for a blessing. Lauren's memory has already been for a blessing.

I feel strange writing these words, but through Facebook, the strength that Alison has demonstrated in this past week, and the weakness that she allowed herself to show those close to her, has offered a chronicle of the emotions and responses to suicide. It has shown other survivors how to be both strong and weak, how to ask for help, and how to be honest about how suicide has affected their lives.

I wish healing and wholeness to Alison's family, along with all other families affected by suicide.

Copyright 2011 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Elana Premack Sandler, L.C.S.W., M.P.H., is a public health social worker specializing in violence and injury prevention and adolescent health promotion.

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