Taking suicide fight on the Web

These days, teens turn to social media, texting and Internet sites to communicate. They announce their sexual orientation on YouTube, express their anxieties through Facebook posts and strike up friendships through texts.

In response to the technological shift in teen communication, the Samaritans, a suicide prevention organization that has focused their operations on a phone hot line for more than 30 years, is also making a major shift.

The Greater Boston chapter is expanding their reach to teens through an online chat program. They recently piloted a program at Framingham High School where 100 trained students are available online to chat with fellow students in need. The program is called IM Hear and is anonymous and confidential.

“We do get calls on our help lines from parents worried about their kids and yet we aren’t getting phone calls in sufficient volume from young people,” said Roberta Hurtig, executive director of Samaritans, Inc. “Online is where young people turn.”

Hurtig said they are hoping to expand the program to additional schools within a few months.

By the numbers

   
The 2009 Health and Risk Behaviors of Massachusetts Youth, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

14 percent of high school students reported they seriously considered suicide.
7 percent of high school students reported one or more suicide attempts in the past year.


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