June 2019 – An apparent link between social media and teen suicide prompted a UK professor to explore the issue. University of Manchester professor Louis Appleby, who leads the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, conducted a study from 2014 to 2016 to investigate the clinical reasons behind suicide.
In February, the Telegraph, a London based daily newspaper, published the startling findings: “The research into 595 suicides by young people aged under 20 showed 128 had used the Internet in a way that was suicide-related.”
Appleby believes social media entities are normalizing self-harm, stating, “[Self-harm] becomes something that transmits across the subculture of young people; it becomes part of how they talk about their lives, how they talk about stress, and how they expect to respond when stresses occur.”
He added, “It would mean we are in danger of brewing up a suicidal generation, who at the moment are harming themselves non-fatally. But as they get older, they might be more suicidal with a fatal outcome.”
Some recent tragedies seem to validate his findings. In February, 14-year-old Molly Russell took her life after viewing self-harm images on Instagram, forcing the social media giant to remove all graphic self-harm images from its platform. Another study showed the number of people searching the word suicide on Internet search engines increased as much as 44% following the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.