Friday, June 29, 2012

Communicating to Youth Regarding Community Suicides: How Should We Do It?

Monitoring page views and other statistics for my Blog today it became rapidly clear that a full 33% of the views came from I-phone users. The rest split rather evenly between windows systems and Mac users including I-Pads.  Without going into the boring details what apparently happened was adolescents and young adults were looking for information regarding Ryan McCarthy of Northbrook and his tragic death.  While over 1800 views gets your attention as a writer, a more disturbing and perhaps urgent issue occurs when you realize these are adolescent information seekers for the most part.

There was a time when local social service providers had a phone tree and we would call each other when tragedy struck so we could be well informed ahead of the grapevine.  News travels fast among the younger crowd and the idea was to try and stay ahead of it.  With the advent of social media, texting, chat and twitter there is now very little opportunity to get ahead of it.

The need for accurate information is still there however and the local press currently fills a large void in that regard.  Soon though, bloggers such as myself will be putting out information almost instantaneously and it may become necessary to ensure the general validity of that information just as quickly, especially it seems when the subject is adolescent death or severe injury.

Across the Country many local Police Departments and Towns have created Facebook pages to disseminate correct information in a timely fashion.  Where I live Amber Alerts and Attempts To Locate are now a regular part of the Police Departments Facebook page.  While many will likely balk at this information evolution, I believe it has the ability to make a real difference in the area of contagion as it applies to adolescent suicide.  The reason I believe this has to do with today’s teens and communication.

According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC, 2012*), Adolescents (teens) can be grouped according to 5 general groupings;

According to Cheskin Research and its 1999 study of teens and the Internet, teens are divided into five distinct segments on the basis of attitude, behavior, and conformity.

Explorer: This group tends to be very creative, independent, and differ from the norm. This segment is relatively small (approximately 10%), but they are very influential. Many teen trends begin within this segment. They are passionate and committed to the interests and issues around which they build their identities, but their interests can change rapidly.

Visible: Visible teens constitute 30% of teens. They are well known and popular because of their looks, personality, or athletic ability. Visibles tend to spread the trends they adopt more widely because of their presence and popularity among other teens.

Status Quo: These teens represent 38% of the teen population. They display traditional values of moderation and achievement and seek mainstream acceptance. These teens are well liked by both their peers and adults. When a trend becomes main stream, they will adopt it. 
Non-Teen: These teens tend to behave more like adults or young children because of a lack of social skills, an intense interest in academics, or an indifference to teen culture and style. These teens (13–15%) become psychologically isolated from both their peers and adults. Once the parents of Non-Teens encourage their kids to adopt a trend, it is already out of style.

Isolator: Isolators are more psychologically isolated from both their peers and adults. These teens (5–10%) are most commonly associated with societal problems.

All these groups have large appetite for immediate information and all are hooked into the information stream digitally.  It’s the Isolators that concern me the most when it comes to contagion.

What I’d really like to hear is your idea’s about immediate communication and what, if anything, should be done to communicate information on adolescent suicide.  Do we need to get facts out fast?  How about information on getting help?  What do you think?

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