• Researchers questioning if social media plays role in rising suicide rates of teenagers


    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Researchers are now questioning if social media is playing a role in the rising suicide rates of young girls. 

    It is a troubling spike. 

    “What we are seeing now is that females are using more lethal means, and that increases the numbers,” said Mike LaBonte, of Memphis Crisis Center.

    Research scientists at Nationwide Children’s Hospital just finished looking at the numbers for children ages 10-19 from 1990-2016. They noticed a decrease in suicides from the early 1990s until 2007. 

    Then a surge – in the 10-14 year-old age group, the rate of suicides increased nearly 13 percent for girls and seven percent for boys since 2007.

    Researchers said girls use social media more than boys and are more likely to face cyber bullying.

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    “The emergence of social media has coincided with this increase that we are seeing in adolescent female suicide,” LaBonte said.

    Previous data revealed a gap, but that appears to be closing, according to scientists. 

    Before, boys typically died by suicide at a higher rate than girls. Numbers showed girls reported more thoughts or attempts but did not take their own lives at the rate boys did.

    And now, researchers are analyzing the uniqueness of girls versus boys on social media platforms.

    “We have seen an increase in both bullying calls and in terms of social media issues, so that’s something that we are now tracking,” said LaBonte.

    Experts said excess time on social media can likely result in stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and irritability for teens. 

    But there are some positives to social media use.

    “You become aware that someone is struggling with social media ideation because of something they posted,” LaBonte said.

    Several social media platforms have help pages where posts that may be worrisome can be reported.

    The number for the Memphis Crisis Center is 901-CRISIS-7, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. 

    You can also text “TN” to 741-741 for the crisis text line.

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