Study: Warning Sign For Parents If Teens Post About Suicide On Social Media

Stark County Courthouse in Canton, Ohio. [Begoon (Talk) / Wikimedia Commons]
Stark County recently experienced a cluster of deaths by suicide, and researchers studied the reaction from students who posted about it on social media.Stark County Courthouse in Canton, Ohio. [Begoon (Talk) / Wikimedia Commons]
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Posting content related to suicide is an indicator that young people might be thinking about suicide, according to a recent study.

Researchers anonymously surveyed 15,000 middle and high school students in the Stark County area, which recently experienced a rapid increase in youth suicides between August 2017 and March 2018.

Study co-author Luke Werhan of the Ohio Department of Health said they found 23 percent of students who posted about the cluster of deaths by suicide to social media had suicidal thoughts, and 15 percent attempted suicide during the cluster. Experts sometimes call this phenomenon suicide contagion, or the spread of suicidal behaviors. 

“When someone’s posting about a suicide cluster or a friend or family member who had died, that is a risk factor for suicide,” he said. “Even if they’re not, in the post, expressing suicidal ideation, the fact that they’re posting about it makes it clear that that’s something they’re thinking about or wrestling with.”

Many people who interact with kids, like educators and parents, can use the results of the survey to provide resources and help for students who may be thinking about suicide, Werhan said.

It's impossible to shut off social media and shield people from suicide-related content, he said. But Werhan would like to see more conversations sharing resources with people who might be thinking about suicide.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.

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