Recently, a YouTube star with a large following of young viewers posted a video that contained graphic and insensitive footage related to suicide. This received wide media coverage. He has since removed the video and posted an apology; however, we know that this video (and coverage of the video) has had an impact on many people and has raised some very important issues. Given his young audience, we also know that many parents may want to address these issues in age-appropriate ways with their children. These aren’t easy discussions and there are many aspects to them, but we’ve compiled some information, talking points, and resources to help:
Addressing the video itself:
Suicide is a public health issue; media coverage and how we talk about it is important. If your child has seen the video, consider discussing the following:
- How did the video make you feel?
- Why do you think so many people are upset about it?
For older children and youth, consider discussing:
- Why do you think the video was posted?
- What could have been done differently?
A good conversation to have whether your child has seen the video or not:
- Sometimes people feel very down, sad, or hopeless. What can we do to let people know that they aren’t alone and that you care? Who can you talk to if you feel sad or hopeless?
- What should you do if you see something online that makes you feel uncomfortable?
Addressing the backlash toward the YouTube star and his video:
One of the issues raised by the negative response to this video and the YouTube star who posted it, is that children may feel that one of their friends or heroes is being attacked if they idolized the poster of the video. This can feel extremely uncomfortable and confusing.
People of all ages can form a sort of attachment or illusion of friendship with a celebrity. This is called a parasocial relationship; it is one-sided, but can feel mutual and special.
You can help your child understand these feelings by discussing:
- What is it about this person’s videos that you like?
- Is there anything about them that you don’t like?
- We only see what this person wants us to see. What sort of work do you think goes on behind the scenes of these videos? Are there other people involved? What do you think this person does while they are not filming videos?
- Does this person have their own idols/do you think they look up to anyone? What do you think they would feel if someone they respected did something that hurt someone else?
- Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes hurt people. What should we do when we’ve made a mistake? How do we decide when to forgive people? What does forgiveness look like? What does it mean to do better next time?
Note: It is important to remember that these are complex discussions that you may want to have more than once. Allow time for your child to process their thoughts. Explain that you sometimes have trouble with these questions! These discussions reinforce empathy, emotional intelligence, and media literacy.
Learn more about these topics
Your child might have questions about mental health, mental illness, and/or suicide. Some resources to get started:
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: https://suicideprevention.ca/
Suicide Prevention in Schools (contains youth-appropriate resources): https://suicideprevention.ca/understanding/school/
What is Suicide? http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/factsheet/what-is-suicide
Kelty Mental Health: http://keltymentalhealth.ca/
Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide: http://reportingonsuicide.org/recommendations/
You can also take a safeTALK suicide alertness training or Mental Health First Aid course with CMHA Kelowna: http://cmhakelowna.com/workshops/
Know about crisis resources:
Online youth chat (noon to 1am): http://youthinbc.com/
Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/
Online chat for adults (noon to 1am): http://crisiscentrechat.ca/
Interior Crisis Line Network: http://www.crisislines.bc.ca/interior