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Are Some Social Media Users Telegraphing Suicidal Thoughts?

Brett Blume
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A well-known sportswriter in Kansas City blogs about taking his own life…the family of a teenaged suicide victim sues Facebook…all part of a disturbing recent trend.

With that in mind KMOX News asked social media expert Chris Kraft: “Are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other sites encouraging those contemplating suicide to go out in a blaze of social media glory?”.

“There may be some validity to that,” he replied, “but I think social media is just an outlet, in a way, for people to vent and communicate.”

But buried within the millions upon millions of words posted on blogs and websites every day there may be clues which, if properly analyzed, could provide a clear early warning that the person behind the message was seriously thinking about ending their life.

That’s why Kraft is promoting something called the “Durkheim Project”, which searches social media postings for possible early indicators of suicidal thoughts.

“They’re looking for words and phrases that line up with areas of psychological stress that may be an early indicator to potential thoughts of suicide,” he explained.

Kraft pointed out it’s an “opt-in” program, which in his opinion minimizes the Big Brother aspect of searching through postings Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

The goal of the “Durkheim Project” is to detect suicide risk in real time and eventually send an alert for intervention, before it’s too late.

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