22-year-old YouTube star Logan Paul is facing heavy criticism after posting a video to the website showing the body of an apparent suicide victim. He said he was hoping to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention, but some local experts in the field say the video could do more harm than good.
"Social media can be powerful in a good way and also in a bad way," Jessica Pirro, the CEO of Crisis Services, said Wednesday.
Paul has around 15 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and this particular video was widely seen before he took it down and apologized.
Videos that appear to make light of or sensationalize suicide can have a huge impact on people already struggling with mental health issues, especially tweens, teens or young adults, according to Crisis Services.
"Our younger audience meaning our teenagers and adolescents are at an increased risk in general for suicide," explained Olivia Retallack with the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County. It works in conjunction with Crisis Services.
If you or someone you know would like to talk to someone about a mental health struggle or suicide, the agency's 24/7 hotline is (716) 834-3131.
"We know that there's a risk anytime our younger audience is viewing something like this and not necessarily understanding how to handle or cope with their emotions after they see it," Retallack said.
The team at Crisis Services wants anyone who may have watched the video, heard about the video or is simply dealing with a mental health struggle to know they are not alone.
"Anybody can go through a period where they are sad or they're struggling or they are having thoughts of suicide," Retallack said. "So we want to remind people that hope is real. Help is real."
"Our goal is to keep people safe in the community, wrap them in the resources and support that they need and give them a sense of hope to continue on every day," explained Pirro.
The pair encourages parents to take this opportunity to talk to children about suicide and mental health. It's important for these conversations to happen at home, according to Retallack, and parents shouldn't be afraid to use terms like "suicide" or "mental health" when talking to adolescents.
Another thing to keep in mind following such a public video like the one posted by Paul is to closely watch social media feeds. Pirro says some people use social media accounts to reach out for help and some posts can indicate underlying struggles. She wants more people to feel comfortable reaching out to each other if they see posts or comments that are concerning.
Crisis Services is a comprehensive organization that serves Erie County through its 24/7 hotline, emergency mobile outreach and community education, among other programs.
The agency's 24 hour hotline, again, is (716) 834-3131 and it is open to anybody struggling with a mental health issue, having thoughts of suicide or to family members interested in learning how to support loved ones going through difficult times.
If you're unfamiliar with Logan Paul or his work you can read more here.