Social media was taken by storm when founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg put Facebook on the map. Millions of users logged in to post and share moments of their everyday life. What was meant to connect people from all over the world though, has now become a hazard zone where young teens are bullied.
From it, a deadly new trend has also emerged among young people. Teens and young adults are now airing the last moment of their lives online.
Suicide videos have plagued not only YouTube but also Facebook Live where followers can see someone taking their own life in real time. The youngest to take their life online is reported to be as young as 12-years-old.
Social media founders are alarmed and puzzled about how to tackle this situation. Parents have also raised concerns regarding the protection of their children online.
But why are minors posting their suicides online? Even more importantly why are young adults increasingly becoming suicidal?
Here’s more on why teens are broadcasting their final moments on the internet and what you can do when you spot the warning signs.
Teens Are the Biggest Population That Makeup Online Suicide Videos
Data has shown that in recent years suicide rates have risen amongst the adolescent population. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that 13.15% percent of young adults aged 15-24, had taken their lives in one year. Research has also revealed that suicide rates are growing larger amongst the pre-teen demographic, ages 10-14.
Why are young adults so compelled to take their lives at such an exponential rate?
There is one prominent factor that has played a huge role in the rise of teen suicides: social media usage.
An analysis released by NCBI concluded that minors being active on social media can influence a teen’s mental state. Studies have concluded that teens that spend an excessive amount of time on social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook are more than likely to be depressed.
The verb CEO Mark Zuckerberg primarily used to express the purpose of Facebook was the word “connect”. Data has indicated though that teens and young adults feel anything but connected. In fact, many experience a great amount of loneliness and isolation.
Katelyn Nicole Davis was one of the earliest Facebook Live suicides to shock the internet. The pre-teen was experiencing major depression and claimed that she was sexually abused by a family member. She also stated in one video that her step-father said to “go kill yourself.”
Although Katelyn continuously, before her death, posted content including severe implications that she was going to take her own life, not one person contacted the police or her parents.
Because of no one informing anyone about the teen’s suicidal behavior, Katelyn’s Facebook followers were left with a live stream clip of her hanging herself from a tree.
Cyberbullying is a Contributing Factor of Suicide
It used to be that if you were bullied at school, you could always go home and gain solace from the teasing.
Today, victims cannot stay away from the bullies even at home.
Social media usage in modern times can instigate suicidal thoughts or tendencies because of a new term that is now known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has become such a problem within social media platforms that it has now been regarded as a public health issue.
California Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies define cyberbullying as “any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act.”
Cyberbullying is a crime and should be taken seriously amongst teens. Even though there are laws set in place to “protect” young adults, it doesn’t mean the harassment has completely stopped.
One of the most recent of cyberbullying cases is that of 12-year-old Gabriella Green. The victim of cyberbullying died by hanging herself in her home. The police interviewed two minors and it was reported that the suspects spread rumors of Gabriella having venereal diseases and called her vulgar names.
According to CNN, the 12-year-old tried to reach out for help before she committed suicide to a friend and expressed she wanted to hurt herself, but she was met with her friend saying, “if you are going to do it, just do it.”
A Public Health Issue
Even though people over the years have been open and willing to receive help when struggling emotionally and mentally either through therapy or medication, it still has not helped the number of people committing suicide decrease.
Former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, shared with the New York Times that it’s not the quality of resources that have been provided, it’s the lack of resources available for the growing population of people living with mental conditions.
“I think the increase in demand for the services is so huge that the expansion of treatment thus far is simply insufficient to make a dent in what is a huge social change,” said Insel.
Government officials are still laboring on how to provide more resources for people seeking psychological help.
If you are someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts there are immediate resources you can look to.
Child National Youth Advocacy Hotline: 1-800-USA-KIDS (872-5437)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline : 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Line (LGBQT): 1-866-488-7386
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
Mental illness is a difficult condition to live with. Amongst teens, though, living with a mental health condition is even tougher.
Adolescent times can bring on hardships that include fitting in with peers, coping with home life, and taking on pressures in social groups. Teasing and bullying can cause a teen to become distant or at times they resort to self-harm.
Research concludes that 13%-23% percent of teens use skin cutting to self-mutilate. There are various reasons why young adult would be prone to cut themselves. The most reoccurring reason as to why a child would cut themselves would be to reveal emotional, and mental suffering.
Psychologist Dr. Vijayeta Sinh describes the type of relief cutters experience when self-mutilating. “Endorphins energize us so we can take actions to avoid hurt and discomfort. This impacts not just the physical pain we experience but also the emotional pain, “Dr.Sinh shared with Healthline.
There are ways you can discern whether or not someone close to you self-harms.
Below are five indications that a person you know may be self-mutilating:
- Minor scratches on the body
- Dressing in long sleeves or long pants
- Teen has an abundance of sharp objects on hand
- Uses statements such as “Why am I here?”
- Unpredictable, sudden crying or anger spells
Types of Mental Illnesses Amongst Teens
Many parents are apt to think certain behaviors such as anger, rebellion or sadness are just part of teenage hood. In some cases, “hormones” are not to blame for a teenager behaving in a self-destructive manner.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness states that over 21.4% percent of adolescents are diagnosed with a mental illness, some as young as 13. If your child or peer exhibits the following characteristics, seek professional help for her/him.
Depression: When symptoms such as sleeping patterns changing, low self-esteem or lack of enthusiasm occur within adolescents, they may be experiencing depression. Experts say that teenagers that may have depression at times participate in behaviors that involve drugs or sexual promiscuity.
Anxiety: Anxiety disorder statistics have recorded approximately 40 million people suffer from anxiety and the mental condition has been deemed as the number one mental health issue in America. There are various types of anxiety disorders and characteristics. One common theme of having an anxiety disorder is excessive worry and nervousness.
A portion of people have anxieties that cause a person to be mute, socially anxious or have trouble breathing if put in a triggering environment.
Bipolar disorder: A teen experiencing extreme mood swings from being happy to suicidal when upset may be experiencing characteristics of bipolar disorder. A person who may have bipolar I or bipolar II like symptoms are susceptible to manic episodes. Manic episodes involve a person speaking very fast, not sleeping for days (alert with only 2-3 hours of sleep) or has an increased libido.
If a teen is successful in their suicide, family members are left with pain, suffering, and overridden guilt as the aftermath.
Questions of “Could I have done more?” “Did I miss the signs?” plague the ones left behind. This kind of grief that is experienced is known amongst the professional field as “complicated grief.” Complicated grief can last for years and from this, people can develop deep depression or PTSD.
Licensed Psychologist Deborah Serani says one of best techniques to understand survivors of suicide loss is just to listen.
“Don’t set a time limit for a survivor’s grief. Complicated grief can take years to process. Moreover, don’t limit a survivor’s need to share and repeat stories, conversations or wishes. Repetition is a key factor in grief recovery,” shared Serani.
Signs to look out for…
Even if you as a parent or friend, feel as though you do not have all the answers to what your loved one is going through, this does not mean you can’t help. There are signs that can determine if a person close to you is suicidal and the sooner you know the better you can help.
Indicators that a person is potentially a danger to themselves:
- Preparations being made, such as suddenly visiting family members all at once
- Experiencing calmness all sudden after a major depressive episode
- Not caring about their appearance
- Speaking very slowly and calmly
What do you do when you think someone is a threat to themselves?
Although you may not think so, a little goes a long way. Just the act of asking and listening can be enough to save a young adult’s life. Suicide prevention coordinator Ben Bryan says that even when you have any suspicion that a person will harm themselves, you need to reach out immediately.
Bryan says one of the most important ways you can help someone who’s contemplating suicide is ” …to talk to them, listen to them, and if you have any belief they are going to commit suicide, reach out to law enforcement, a suicide hotline or a mental health worker.”