HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force psychologist considers social media’s role in suicide prevention

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS) -- Social media connects us to more people than ever before, but these contacts may not be the type that help build resiliency. Strong interpersonal connections play a critical role in suicide prevention. Used correctly, social media can be an important tool in the suicide prevention toolbox for commanders, friends, and family.

When people associate social media with suicide, it is often in a negative way. We think of cyber-bullying or lonely teenagers with thousands of virtual friends but none in real life. Those examples do exist and are a serious concern, says Lt. Col. Alicia Matteson, chief of Air Force suicide prevention programs. However, she says that social media can also play a valuable role in suicide prevention efforts, especially to help officers know the Airmen under their command.

“I recently served as a squadron commander, and I sometimes heard from the leaders in my organization that they were too busy to be connected to their Airmen,” said Matteson. “It’s true, we are very busy, but it is critical to take the time to know your Airmen, and what’s going on in their lives, to ask the questions.”

Keeping a finger on the emotional pulse of Airmen is extremely important for leaders to gauge the emotional well-being of their subordinates, and know when they may need additional assistance.

“Social media can be an effective tool to connect leaders to their Airmen, including civilians in the total force,” said Matteson. “It can be texting groups, Facebook groups, or something else. It’s a good way to get information out quickly, but it’s also a means to look at what people are saying and posting.”

Social media documents major life events, like the death of a loved one or a divorce that can be triggers for suicidal behavior. Sudden changes in online behavior, negative posts that are out of character, or even explicit contemplation of suicide, can all be warning signs.

“Sometimes, social media is where you will see the first sign that something is going wrong,” said Matteson. “If their posts, or the tone of their posts change, if they are saying things that are uncharacteristic of them, or things like ‘I’m done, I’m fed up, I hate my life,’ it can be a sign that a leader needs to engage immediately.”

Although social media can be an effective window into Airmen’s inner thoughts, it is not necessarily the best tool to respond, says Matteson. An in-person interaction, or over the phone if that connection is not possible, is more likely to make an impact. The first line of defense against suicide is human interaction, and connecting with something bigger then yourself. Leaders can make their Airmen feel like valued members of the unit, and help build resiliency.

Preventing suicide is the responsibility of every member of the Air Force community, from the highest-ranking military and civilian leadership, all the way to the new enrollees in basic training. Using every tool to build connections strengthens relationships within a unit, and helps build a sense of community that is a valuable bulwark against feelings of isolation, depression, and substance abuse, all of which are major risk factors for suicide.

Engage

Twitter
Join us for the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force transition ceremony LIVE from @Andrews_JBA on Aug 14 at 9:30AM E… https://t.co/GfPIHkx0zn
Twitter
An @EdwardsAFB B-52H Stratofortress completed a captive-carry flight test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Respon… https://t.co/HxxgE2In8C
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Just arrived to @NellisAFB to see RED FLAG, the #USAF Weapons School, and more. Because it has the best #Airmen and trai…
Twitter
“It’s no overstatement to say that brilliant ideas combined with trailblazing Airmen makes today’s Air Force the mo… https://t.co/qsDWN2Den5
Twitter
An F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 3rd Wing approaches for landing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during R… https://t.co/EMKHnjC6p0
Twitter
A C-130H from the 302nd Airlift Wing, equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, flies over fires near… https://t.co/9BPVXNFual
Twitter
Roam Robotics developed a lightweight & inexpensive knee exoskeleton for applications in the health, military & rec… https://t.co/7klpyEaYG1
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: |RESOLUTE PARTNERSHIPS| On Aug. 6, 2020, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and @AirMobilityCmd units were called to action to p…
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord flies over the Seattle skyline after completing a training exe… https://t.co/4IodNs1bId
Twitter
#DYK The T-33A Shooting Star at Moody AFB's air park was developed from the single-seat F-80 fighter by lengthening… https://t.co/XXY3pAHDzu
Twitter
A C-17 Globemaster III returns to @TeamCharleston after evacuating to Ellsworth AFB. Ellsworth has a support agree… https://t.co/vtHhp1ETVC
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: #OTD in 1949, the DOD was formed, unifying the military under the secretary of defense. Our thanks to everyone who serve…
Twitter
Starting off the week with some air power! . An F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing takes off from Joint Base Elme… https://t.co/cjvCe6fSOk
Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: “We need out-of-the-box thinkers to succeed in our mission of developing the base of the future,” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Mel…
Twitter
“With accelerating disruptive technologies...rewriting Air Power for all nations, not just the U.S., continuing our… https://t.co/WDD6LsQGkr
Twitter
#Resilience: The story of the Peck family’s and their battle with breast cancer. #TotalForce @ScottAFB https://t.co/PYGgSOQwcu
Twitter
Twitter
RT @USAFReserve: Maintaining resiliency in paradise - https://t.co/IXktGzGgWc (Story by the @624RSG) #ReserveResilient https://t.co/ta8mMTP…
Twitter
RT @hack_a_sat: Tune in at 11 AM PDT to watch the LIVE closing ceremony with Dr. Will Roper and @bjgol. 🚀It's all happening at https://t.c…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,265,909
Follow Us