Suicide is a challenging and urgent issue, especially among young people. As a major cause of death in this group, society often turns to drastic measures in hopes of dealing with the problem quickly. In recent years, suicide and self-harm have been connected in media to the use of social media. Parents and politicians alike highlight the presence of disturbing discussions on forums and unrestricted access to images on apps and websites. Thus, an argument arises that social media needs to be banned to protect the youth from exposure to suicide-related topics. However, research shows that such an approach simplifies the problem and may worsen young people’s experiences. Instead, a more complex strategy for improving social media exist. People should advocate for implementing the latest technology and professional input to develop better control measures for removing harmful content and banning manipulating tactics.
Suicide linked to the use of social media
The problem of high suicide rates is not exclusive to one country or culture – youth suicide and self-harm are global concerns, which can be proven by the latest statistics. According to Sedgwick et al., in adolescents and young adults between ages 10 and 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death (534). Firth states that almost 120 young people die by suicide every week. Such high numbers are comparable to some major accidents and catastrophes, and this pattern should make all individuals consider the severity of the issue and take immediate action. Suicide prevention programs and hotlines are active in many locations and online, but not everyone is aware of them or believes in their effectiveness. Furthermore, prevention can take the form of active intervention in the stage of content creation and information sharing. However, each action must be well-thought-out to not cause more harm than good.
In connection to the topic, suicide is often linked to the use of social media in news reports and family accounts. For example, in the case of a 14-year-old-girl, who died by suicide in 2017, her father said that Instagram was responsible for his daughter’s death (Crawford). The interpretation of such statements in the media causes people to think about social media as one whole, which leads to negative outcomes for the youth. This connection further stresses the desire for implementing radical all-encompassing solutions, such as banning all social media sites for young people, controlling their time on these sites, and supervising all viewed content individually.
A solution that tackles suicide prevention while not restricting the youth’s access to social media lies in merging the latest technology and recognizing suicide ideation patterns. In particular, Firth talks about specific forums and websites that promote suicide and self-harm, give instructions on following specific steps, and influence individuals to commit acts they would not otherwise. Moreover, content shared over social media can contain harmful imagery and traumatize young people or desensitize them to acts of bodily harm (Firth). The proposed solution includes using algorithms and human specialists to find such websites and content and remove them from the internet. It is vital to distinguish between accounts and forums that help people thinking about suicide to get better and express themselves in safe ways and places using destructive tactics. The latter is described as exploiting “dark patterns” – manipulative and dangerous content (Firth). These information types must be carefully searched for and eliminated from the internet.
The proposed solution may seem complicated and ineffective to those who believe that all social media brings harm to young people. As mentioned above, some people affirm that social media is responsible for high suicide rates among youth. Therefore, all websites that connect people and inspire discussion should be banned to stop viewing the content in general (Firth). This alternative may pose more risks for adolescents’ and young adults’ mental health than the suggested solution. Firth argues that social media sites have many uses for young people’s mental health. Sedgwick et al. support this argument with studies that show social media’s positive effect on adolescents’ suicide attempt rates (536). By using social media, teenagers and young adults can often share their stories, find a community, and combat negative emotions by relating to others’ feelings. Therefore, controlling and removing harmful content allows social media to remain a haven for young users while reducing the risk of exposure to dangerous patterns.
In conclusion, the problem of high suicide rates among young people remains an urgent issue globally. The statistics show numbers that should worry everyone and inspire immediate action. One of the targets for dealing with suicide risk is social media, which is often seen as the cause of suicide and self-harm among young people. Indeed, harmful content is often shared through such platforms, and some websites openly encourage dangerous behaviors. However, social media empowers young individuals and helps them find a community, lowering the risk of suicide. The solution to deal with damaging content without taking away people’s ability to connect with one another is control and content analysis. Targeting “dark patterns” and removing suspicious and dangerous information but not limiting access to harmless messages can make social media safe for youth.
Crawford, Angus. “Instagram ‘Helped Kill My Daughter.’” BBC News, 2019.
Firth, Shannon. “Social Media’s Role in Youth Suicide Gets Spotlight at House Hearing.” Medpage Today, 2022.
Sedgwick, Rosemary, et al. “Social Media, Internet Use and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, vol. 32, no. 6, 2019, pp. 534-541.