In recent years, the world has been taken over by a comparatively new phenomenon called social media networking. Platforms such as Google+, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have facilitated the fusion of technology with social interaction using Internet-based applications. Social media is a powerful tool to share information, ideas, opinions and conversations. However, criminals have exploited these tools to further their nefarious designs such as cyber bullying, stalking, identity thefts and a wide range of online frauds. Research shows that cyber bullying and online harassment are serious outcomes of social media where gullible individuals are targeted by mischief mongers or perpetrators of hate crimes, and end up with mental health problems leading to suicidal thoughts.
Recently, many innocent teens and young adults from across the globe became victims of the Blue Whale challenge, an online game. Though it started on a Russian social networking site and is apparently controlled by mentors who incite the players to commit suicide, akin to social media death groups, it spread across the world through various social media platforms.
Mental health experts say that adolescents battling internal struggles, loneliness or other psychological issues are vulnerable to such dangerous games on social media. Participating in such games and winning in each stage boosts their low self-esteem and infuse positive energies in their otherwise depressed lives. With the resulting adrenaline surge, they even fail to notice the inevitable danger of death which lies ahead in the later stages of the game.
Social media suicides: An epidemic in teens?
According to data by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), students in middle school are at equal probability of committing suicide as they are of dying in a traffic accident. The numbers have vastly increased from previous years, forcing researchers to take a close look at the phenomena. What they have found is enough to worry anyone.
The new culprit is social media and its invasive presence in one’s life. As teenagers, youngsters often battle challenges such as making friends, self-esteem issues, and fitting in among others. Added to this are pressures of studies at school and problems like bullying, which have all got magnified since the perpetrators found a new mode to harass their victims. Bullying can take place in cyberspace now and one’s popularity measured by how many likes and friends one has. An old study had revealed how suicide can be contagious and result in clusters. People in the age group 15-19 were found to be the most vulnerable. With social media, the chances of teens getting influenced by what they hear or see has increased. However, social media can reflect or worsen a situation, the question is can it really be the cause? It could be that there is more to a suicide than just being on social media.
Helping individuals battling suicidal thoughts
Youth suicide is a silent epidemic in the U.S., which surpasses all barriers of ethnicity, class or education making it one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the country. A person contemplating suicide commonly displays symptoms such as dramatic mood swings, withdrawal from society, hopelessness, strange behaviors, indulging in substance abuse and reckless behavior. This could be because of a number of factors including an underlying mental illness. Some of the time-tested strategies used to help someone combat suicidal thoughts are summed up below:
- Showing compassion and empathy with depressed people: Lending a patient ear to someone exhibiting suicidal tendencies can not only offer them comfort and assurance, but also convince them to change their mind.
- Ensuring urgent action: Seeking professional help or psychiatric counselling from National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can make a huge difference for an afflicted individual experiencing suicidal thoughts.
- Speaking about suicide: Discussing openly about suicide can encourage individuals struggling with such tendencies to voice their concerns that could have forced them to contemplate suicide.
- Promoting medical intervention: Encouraging high-risk groups to seek professional help and medications to treat their mental health concerns can save lives.
- Taking precautionary steps: Staying vigilant and ensuring a crisis plan in place will be of immense use while interacting with someone contemplating suicide. Also, it would be better to learn about the possible factors which acts as suicide triggers.
- Eliminating potential means of suicide: Removing tools, which could be used to harm oneself such as poisonous chemicals, knives and sharp objects, can reduce the chances of them getting into wrong hands.
Declining mental health is a major cause of suicides
Studies suggest that suicide is emerging as one of the major national health concerns in America involving biological, societal and psychological factors. The CDC describes suicide as the tenth leading cause of death across all ages. There were 41,149 suicides in 2013, which amounts to 113 cases each day. In recent years, the nation has witnessed a sudden surge in the rate of suicides since the advent of social media with a significant number of adolescent victims. Harassment on social networking sites is another reason for a spike in mental health challenges. Failing to overcome such challenges have led to contagious suicides, especially in an era where young people are obsessed with social media.
In the wake of the present crisis, September 10-16 is being observed as the National Suicide Prevention Week to highlight the problem of suicide. In most cases, suicides have been attributed to mental health problems, which can be prevented with professional support.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California, offers a variety of customized mental health services to treat the afflicted individuals holistically. Specialists at our mental illness treatment centers are trained to identify the underlying causes and prescribe customized individual as well as group psychotherapy based on the patient’s requirements. Additionally, patients can also opt for alternative therapeutic activities to embark on the journey to wellness.
If you or your loved one is battling depression or any other mental illness, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives. Our world-class mental health treatment facilities spread across California are known for their effective recovery programs, which have helped many individuals to regain control of their lives.