People who create online tribute pages for those who have died tragically can find support and comfort through the effort but there can also be challenges when the pages attract unsettling negative reactions.
Not long after 13-year-old Savy Turcotte, from Regina, killed herself last month, a tribute page emerged. Among the expressions of condolences and sharing of memories, there were young people looking for help.
The Turcotte page was started by Lysaundra Sparrowhawk who was devastated by the death of her friend. She quickly found it needed a lot of attention, particularly when young people reached out to her for support.
"Some kids, they would message me while I was at school, and they'd say, 'Please help. I need help'," Sparrowhawk, 13, told CBC News. "And I wouldn't be able to message them as soon as I thought I would be."
As is often the case with the still-evolving world of social media, there are no clear practices on how to ensure the pages are healthy spaces.
The Turcotte page also attracted some unsettling posts. One commentator condemned the youth.
"He said that she should be in hell because murder is a sin and she killed herself," Sparrowhawk recalled. She told the person that he was being disrespectful but he insisted he had a right to "say anything."
"So I just blocked him from the page," she said.
While the experience with the page has been mostly positive, Sparrowhawk's mother is keeping a watch on the goings on.
"I don't check it all the time, but I do check it once in a while and I've been moderating it," Tracey Schick Sparrowhawk said. "It's easy for it to take on a life of its own and for her to get a little overwhelmed. She says she can handle it on her own, but she has to realize there might come a situation where she should be asking for help."
Monitoring offered for Rehtaeh page
The death of Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia, prompted her mother to run the Angel Rehtaeh page. It was created by a friend and has attracted 46,000 'likes' on Facebook.
Leah Parsons told CBC News that she encountered a lot of negative comments, but things improved when a company offered to monitor the site for her.
"[A company] came forward and offered to monitor our page," she explained. "I don't see any hateful comments anymore. Actually, I was reading something last week and I almost saw a comment and it disappeared before my eyes."
Parsons said the monitoring is being provided at no cost.
6 TIPS FOR CREATING TRIBUTE PAGES:
1. Identify the intent of the memorial page. In the "About" section, explain what you want the space to be and disclose how it will be monitored, if it will be monitored. Example: "This is a place to grieve and share memories of ___, and to talk about _____ (bullying/violence). All other messages will be deleted."
2. Follow through and delete comments that don't fit the bill.
3. When others ask for help, validate their courage. Even if they are posting things that are concerning. This may include providing links to other resources.
4. Emphasize that there are professional supports for both kids and adults to use. Here is a suggested text:: "Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are available 24/7 by phone:1-800-668-6868. You can also visit kidshelpphone.ca for additional support."
5. On Facebook, explore the site's suicide reporting tool which can be found here.
6. If you need help with the page, ask. If the comments from people on the page are difficult to answer, approach a parent or professional.
(SOURCE: Kids Help Phone)