Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Health & Wellness

Youth engaged in digital self-harm 9 to 15 times more likely to attempt suicide

Non-heterosexual students were significantly more likely than heterosexual students to have seriously thought about attempting suicide (24.4% versus 6.9%) and to have attempted suicide (10% versus 4.9%). Twelve-year-olds were more likely to have thought about attempting suicide compared with other ages, but there was no difference across age for suicide attempts.

Photo by Leyla Kilic from Unsplash.com

With lawmakers, educators and other stakeholders increasingly concerned about the deteriorating mental health of youth today – and that population’s tendency to live out so much of their lives online – the phenomenon of digital self-harm is demanding increased focus by both practitioners and academics.  

Digital self-harm is defined as the online posting, sending or sharing of hurtful content about oneself anonymously. Since research is clear that traditional forms of self-harm (cutting, burning, hitting oneself) is linked to suicidal ideation and attempts, it stands to reason that youth who post cruel, embarrassing or threatening content about themselves (while their peers assume a third-party is the culprit) do so for similar dysphoric or abnormal reasons.

A study by Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Florida International University, is the first to empirically demonstrate an association between digital self-harm and suicidality. Findings serve as a warning sign that youth who engage in digital self-harm may also be engaging in or at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Photo by Scott Webb from Unsplash.com

Results of the study, published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Healthshowed that approximately 9% of adolescents reported that they had anonymously posted something online about themselves that was mean, while about 5% said they had anonymously cyberbullied themselves. With regard to suicidality, about 8% of adolescents reported that they had thought seriously about attempting suicide in the past year while 5.3% said they had attempted suicide during that time period.

Most pertinent is the finding that those engaged in digital self-harm were between five and seven times more likely to have considered suicide and between nine and 15 times more likely to have attempted to end their life.

There were no significant differences across gender and race, but non-heterosexual students were significantly more likely than heterosexual students to have seriously thought about attempting suicide (24.4% versus 6.9%) and to have attempted suicide (10% versus 4.9%). Twelve-year-olds were more likely to have thought about attempting suicide compared with other ages, but there was no difference across age for suicide attempts.

“We have identified a strong association between digital self-harm and suicidality,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author, professor, FAU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, and a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University. “As such, it’s imperative for health professionals to screen for digital self-harm to address underlying mental health problems among youth that may occur prior to or alongside suicidality. Moreover, parents and caregivers must convey to children that they are available to dialog, support, and assist with the root issues that may eventually manifest as digital self-harm. Educators and other stakeholders must better prioritize the emotional and psychological needs of youth with opportunities for open dialog, skill building, and the provision of interactive and easily accessible online and offline support resources to ensure that those at-risk know that other people care about them.”

For the study, Hinduja and co-authors Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Ryan C. Meldrum, Ph.D., Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida International University, surveyed a large national sample of 12- to 17-year-old middle and high school students in the US to assess whether engagement in two different indicators of digital self-harm was associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts within the past year.

“It is clear that those youth who participate in digital self-harm are much more likely to think about or attempt suicide when compared to peers who do not engage in digital self-harm,” said Hinduja. “When considering the marked rise in sadness and hopelessness among U.S. adolescents over the last 10 years, our findings serve as another indicator that reflects a worsening state of mental health among teens.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Like Us On Facebook

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Health & Wellness

Up to 0.3% of males will be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Stigma, poor mental health literacy and gendered stereotypes reduce help-seeking behaviours and lead to...

Health & Wellness

Cannabis could play a role in addressing the ongoing opioid overdose crisis since using cannabis is associated with decreased use of crystal methamphetamine among...

Health & Wellness

Lesbian women had more than three times higher odds of suicidal ideation. Bisexual women had almost four times higher odds. And bisexual men exhibited...

Health & Wellness

Those with PCOS had a 8.47-fold increase in risk for suicide attempt. The elevated risk was evident across the adolescent, young adult (

Advertisement