Social Media and Teenage Suicide

How Social Media and Teenage Suicide are Linked

Previously, I have written about the use of screens. My concern is how they can negatively influence the mental health of all of us, especially teenagers. Recently, it has been revealed that this is becoming a matter of life and death. More specifically, how social media and teenage suicide are being linked.

Image of a meadow on a summer's day

Alarmingly, around 200 British schoolchildren take their own lives each year. At a rate of more than one every other day, I was shocked to read this on the BBC website in this article. Another stand-out piece of information from the BBC is as follows. Due to the private nature of mobile phone use, parents are not up-to-date with the online persona of their children. As such, the type of content they are viewing is unknown. The video on the above BBC web page makes the point that disturbing self-harm or suicidal content is still freely and easily available to all.

Therefore, in some cases parents and friends of suicidal teenagers have no idea of deteriorating mental health. One cannot begin to the imagine the shock of discovering a dead child. So what can be done? How can we understand social media and teenage suicide?

Ways to Approach the Problem

To me there seem to be a number of different corners to the problem to smooth off in order make some headway. Initial thoughts might be to blame the social media companies – we live in a blame culture after all! Yes, there is definitely much they can do to improve the way in which harmful material is so readily available. As an optimist, I am sure there is plenty of work behind the scenes but it needs to be quicker and more effective. With all of today’s technology, how is it that a 14 year old can access suicidal images? Unacceptable.

However, can a teenager’s mental health deteriorate that quickly that parents and friends have no idea? Despite the confusing whirlpool of hormones that swish frequently through a young person’s body, we must regularly keep maintaining contact. By that I mean face-to-face interaction – let them know we are available to listen. Try to understand. It might appear to fall on deaf ears or is received with a grunt but on some level it will go in. Furthermore, there are always ways to connect with a teenager. As unlikely as this may seem, each personality will have a unique way in. This could be a board game, eating pizza in the car on the way home or buying an ice cream on a snowy day.

Conclusion, with Extra Awareness

Finally, by reading this article you are now hopefully a little bit more aware of the potential issue. Just this information will likely start-up your radar for signs of problems at home. Furthermore, if things seem unmanageable it is important to address issues through an open, sensitive and non-judgmental discussion with your teenager.

More help is available through the BBC Action Line, the Samaritans or personal counselling, please get in touch here.

‘If I can do it, anybody can’ – Fury’s message on mental health

‘If I can do it’…

If you have been reading my recent blog posts, you will have gathered that I am keen to raise awareness of good mental health. Furthermore, how important it is that people feel comfortable to reach out when they need help. As such I was full of admiration for Tyson Fury and his message during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018, which you can read about here.

Tyson Fury speaks out about mental health

Boxers are viewed as the hard men of sport. Tyson Fury is no exception, especially because he stands at six foot nine and eighteen stone. However, he has had the courage to speak out about his personal issues, at an important public event.

Whatever your views of boxing and sports in general, it cannot be argued that Fury makes a good point. The BBC quote him as saying that [sports] ‘people are still living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it’. However, I believe that this extends far further than sports and into the general population. Therefore, when a celebrity comments publicly about their own mental health, bravery is a word that comes to mind. For many of us, asking for help with mental health is a big and scary step to take. Tyson Fury has helped to normalise this feeling. He is evidence that improvements can be successfully be made to ones own mental health.

 

…’anybody can’

Fury goes on to say ‘no matter what you’re going through, you must always continue to get back up and keep going forward and fight back’. Clearly, he is referring to a boxing match. However, this struck me as a valid metaphor for life in general. As we live our lives, there are constant setbacks and obstacles to overcome. Our ability to deal with these and manage their successful navigation is an indication of our mental health. If the obstacles that knock us down or out become too frequent or too large, things may seem too dark, foreboding or overwhelming.

This is the when counselling can help. It is OK and normal for this to happen. It is OK to ask for help. Even the big tough guys are doing it, without shame or worry about the impact on their image.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out about counselling in Bristol or read more about me.