It’s Absolutely OK To Step Away From The News — Here’s How To Do It

by James Hale
Ashley Batz/Bustle

It's OK to turn off the news. And by that, I mean it's OK to take a step away from everything the news cycle tends to sweep up: Your Facebook timeline, your Twitter feed, even text messages from well-meaning friends just looking to talk about what's happened. In the wake of suicides that are heavily covered by the media, it can feel like the news is constantly pressing in on you. Which means it's incredibly important for you to know, now more than ever, that it's OK to turn off the news if it's negatively impacting your mental health (or if it's not), and there are things you can do to make sure you're disconnecting as effectively as possible.

Dr. Danielle Forshee, a psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle that folks may want to disconnect from the news cycle because coverage tends to glamorize suicide. "Traditionally, it is contraindicated for any details pertaining to the method of suicide or details surrounding any suicide to be publicized on any media outlet," she explains. "[T]his really means that the media is putting out there that somebody committed suicide, and giving information about all of the people around them who are sad, telling stories about the person and memorializing that person." This, she says, can increase the risk of copycat behavior from people who are at risk. "Individuals who are at risk [...] do so at times like this because of the glamorization of how the media is portraying the individual who committed suicide to the public," she says.

All this means that if you're struggling with seeing positive messages being shared about the person who is gone, that's totally normal. But it is a sign that you may want to give yourself a break for a while. And if you're comfortable, you should also reach out to friends and family, as well as mental health professionals. Forshee says that it's important to be open about the emotions you're experiencing after the fact, not only for your own good, but also because it may help loved ones who are also feeling impacted but may not know how to bring it up. "Talking about it is extremely important, because it may also help others who are secretly struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts to come out," Forshee says.

Dr. Lata McGinn, director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Training Program for Anxiety and Depressive Disorders at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the cofounder of Cognitive Behavioral Consultants, told Bustle in January that the first thing you should do in a situation where you're impacted by coverage of suicide is to seek professional help. Whether that means reaching out to a suicide hotline, making an appointment with your psychiatrist, or connecting with a local mental health support organization, making sure you have support from professionally trained people is necessary.

The next thing to do is manage your exposure to the news. Disconnecting completely is one option. You can delete social media apps from your phone and can use a website blocker for your browser, which will keep your browser from being able to access any site you blacklist (which is especially helpful for those of us whose fingers automatically take them to Twitter or Instagram).

Forshee also says that when you disconnect from the news, it's extra important that you don't disconnect from the rest of your daily routine. "[C]ontinue on with your daily life as usual," she advises. "Maintaining structure to your day will create a sense of comfort and predictability."

There are cases where you may be unable to completely disconnect; maybe you have a job that requires you to keep tabs on the news, or you simply don't want to disconnect completely because your friends on social media are a form of support. That's A-OK, too. There are tools you can use to protect yourself by filtering your social media streams, including Twitter's TweetDeck, which you can use to mute certain words, phrases, or hashtags you want removed from your feed; Social Fixer for Google Chrome, which you can use to filter Facebook; and Tumblr Savior for Tumblr, where you can blacklist words and tags. You can also consider services like Sadblock, which is a Google Chrome add-on that developers say will block sad and triggering content across your entire browser (though it can have a slight loading delay, so be prepared to give it a couple of seconds to kick in when a page loads).

No matter your situation or level of disconnect, make sure you're taking it easy on yourself. Every solution doesn't work for every person, so treat yourself with kindness and give yourself the flexibility to figure out what you need to help keep yourself as mentally healthy as possible. And above all, remember that needing to disconnect from social media for a while, or needing to reach out and talk to someone in times like these, doesn't make you a burden. The people in your support network are happy to have you here, and they want you to stick around.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.