YouTube star Logan Paul shared a horrific video featuring an apparent suicide victim earlier this week, sparking a major dialogue about the proper way to bring awareness to mental health issues.
The video, which racked up more than 1 million views before it was removed, featured Paul, a tour guide and several others as they walked through Aokigahara, a woodsy location in Japan that has been dubbed the “Japanese Suicide Forest.” The footage showed the group as they found a person who died of an apparent suicide, zooming in on the body. (The person’s face was edited to be blurred out.) Paul can also be heard laughing on the tape.
People were outraged following the video, expressing their anger with Paul on Twitter over his callous attitude toward the victim and suicide. Paul has since apologized, saying that he “intended the video to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention.”
Paul’s video certainly missed the mark when it comes to productive, compassionate and responsible mental health awareness. Experts stress that videos like these do more of a disservice to the mental health community rather than help it.
Research shows that showing videos or divulging methods of suicide may have a contagion effect, leading to copycat acts in vulnerable individuals, according to Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE). Problematic content around mental health can also contribute to stigma, which can prevent people from seeking help, he added.
“It can create trauma for many and that can have lasting effects on people,” he told HuffPost.
If the goal truly is mental health awareness, there are other, more efficient methods anyone can do to help. Below are some expert-approved ways you can lend your voice or your time to the cause:
Share positive messages on social media and in the news.
Reidenberg recommends creating awareness through social media channels, which arguably have the widest reach. You can do this by openly discussing mental health, supporting others who do the same and sharing responsible, research-backed information about mental illness and treatment.
This rule should also apply to journalists and entertainers, said Victor Schwartz, medical director of the Jed Foundation, and organization dedicated to preventing suicide in teenagers and young adults.
“Media and artists sharing accurate information about mental health and suicide risk in ways that focus on availability and effectiveness of…