US Air Force (USAF) Suicide Prevention Programmes (SPP) chief lieutenant colonel Alicia Matteson has highlighted social media’s role in suicide prevention.

According to Matteson, social media can connect leaders to the airmen under their command and strong interpersonal connections play a critical role in suicide prevention.

Matteson said: “I recently served as a squadron commander and I sometimes heard from the leaders in my organisation that they were too busy to be connected to their airmen.

“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.”

“Social media can be an effective tool to connect leaders to their airmen, including civilians in the total force.”

The USAF officers can measure the emotional health of their airmen and provide additional assistance if required, by keeping a track of their subordinates’ emotions.

Matteson added: “Social media can be an effective tool to connect leaders to their airmen, including civilians in the total force.

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“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 records major life events, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce, which can be triggers for suicidal behaviour.

The sudden changes in an individual’s online behaviour, negative posts, or even explicit contemplation of suicide, can all be warning signs.

Matteson stated that an in-person or over-the-phone interaction can be an effective way of communicating with airmen.