By Anne Collier
“We Can Help Us” is the welcoming (and welcome) message of a just-launched suicide-prevention campaign created by the US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Inspire USA Foundation, and the Ad Council. It’s great that there are press releases and radio and TV spots will hit the wires and airwaves, but even better is ReachOut.com, a welcoming comprehensive Web site with video and text stories from teens and young adults about difficulties that sparked their suicidal thoughts and how they made their way to support and solutions. The site provides tools and channels for helping oneself (with a direct link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and solid information about suicide, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, and much more), helping a friend get help (by understanding the warning signs and knowing who to contact), and helping others (by submitting one’s own story). Suicide is preventable, SAMHSA points out. That’s why ReachOut.com is such an important step toward moving suicide prevention into social media. With teens sending or receiving more than 1,300 text messages a month, on average, and the vast majority of teens (82%) using social network sites, very often it’s peers who are first to see warning signs (see this bit of social-Web history). According to SAMHSA, “suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds, following unintended injuries and homicide. While suicides account for approximately 1.4% of all deaths in the US annually, they comprise 12% of deaths among this age group. In 2006, 4,189 people between ages 15 and 24 died by suicide. For every youth who died by suicide, it is estimated that 100-200 attempts are made.” It’s outstanding that SAMHSA and Inspire USA are getting at underlying causes in this way.