Headspace using social media to combat youth suicide in Albury Wodonga

Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, is partnering with Facebook to combat youth suicide.

Facebook has provided Headspace with free targeted advertising, which is being used to promote mental health messages to 11 communities across Australia with high rates of youth suicide, including Albury Wodonga.

The messages contain advice for young people on where and how to seek help in their region if they are experiencing significant distress.

National manager of Headspace School Support, Kristen Douglas, said that the idea for the program came about due to the fact that recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) research showed rates of youth suicide were at the highest they had been in about 10 years.

"We're trying to be proactive, as opposed to waiting for those figures to go up," Ms Douglas said.

Headspace is turning to social media to encourage help-seeking. Headspace is turning to social media to encourage help-seeking.

Why Albury Wodonga?

Albury Wodonga was chosen to receive targeted messages based upon the occurrence of youth suicide in north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales.

"I think while young people know about the Headspace centre [in Wodonga], it's still relatively new," Ms Douglas said.

"Families around Albury Wodonga are still learning about youth services, and I think the more we can educate parents and young people in that area, the better."

Ms Douglas said she hoped the targeted messages would remind young people in Albury Wodonga that there was always a mental health service nearby.

Headspace chose to use a social media platform to promote its messages because of the high number of young people who use it. "There's been lots of research and study into the use of social media to connect with young people," Ms Douglas said.

"We're using social media because young people are on their news feeds, Facebook and Instagram, every day.

"We figured if we could make this an everyday thing that they see, it might reduce some of the stigma and actually increase some of their help-seeking."

Aleisha Polkinghorne, 22, was born and raised in Albury Wodonga and agrees that Headspace's plan to spread advice via Facebook about seeking help for mental illness was a smart one.

"I think using Facebook to combat suicide and mental health issues is an excellent idea," she said.

"Facebook is a platform used by the majority of youth and is likely to be seen by a far larger number of people than other forms of media like TV or radio... "TV and radio advertising is just not likely to reach the younger generation. Social media platforms are, especially Facebook."

Ms Polkinghorne also said Facebook was "an excellent tool" in breaking down stigma associated with mental illness. "I think making mental health a subject of discussion is extremely important in decreasing stigmas and prejudices about mental health conditions," she said.

Headspace has found that the messages promoting help-seeking have already been a success.

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