POSSIBLE LINK IN TEEN SUICIDE, SOCIAL MEDIA
CHICAGO — An increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged and a new analysis suggests there may be a link.
Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the rates went up isn’t known.
The study doesn’t answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying, and social media posts depicting “perfect” lives may be taking a toll on teens’ mental health, researchers say.
“After hours of scrolling through Instagram feeds, I just feel worse about myself because I feel left out,” said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old Littleton, Colorado, high school senior who helped organize an offline campaign last month after several local teen suicides.
“No one posts the bad things they’re going through,” said Chloe Schilling, also 17, who helped with the campaign, in which hundreds of teens agreed not to use the internet or social media for one month.
The study’s authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and results of two surveys given to U.S. high school students to measure attitudes, behaviors and interests. About half a million teens ages 13 to 18 were involved. They were asked about use of electronic devices, social media, print media, television and time spent with friends. Questions about mood included frequency of feeling hopeless and considering or attempting suicide.
The researchers didn’t examine circumstances surrounding individual suicides. Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the study provides weak evidence for a popular theory and that many factors influence teen suicide.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Clini- hammad, an American fencer who competed in last year’s Olympics while wearing a hijab.
Mattel Inc. said the doll will be available online next fall. The doll is part of the Barbie “Shero” line that honors women who break boundaries. Past dolls have included gymnast Gabby Douglas and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay.
“I had so many moments as an athlete, where I didn’t feel included, where I was often in spaces where there was a lack of representation,” Muhammad said Monday night at the Glamour Women of the Year gala in New York. “So to be in this moment, as a U.S. Olympian, to have Mattel, such a global brand, diversify their toy line to include a Barbie doll that wears a hijab is very moving to me.”
Muhammad, the first American to compete at the Olympics while wearing a hijab, won a bronze medal in fencing at the 2016 Rio Games. cal Psychological Science.
Data highlighted in the study include:
Teens’ use of electronic devices including smartphones for at least five hours daily more than doubled, from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. These teens were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use.
In 2015, 36 percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, up from 32 percent in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher — 45 percent in 2015 versus 40 percent in 2009.
In 2009, 58 percent of 12th grade girls used social media every day or nearly every day; by 2015, 87% used social media every day or nearly every day. They were 14% more likely to be depressed than those who used social media less frequently.
“We need to stop thinking of smartphones as harmless,” said study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who studies generational trends. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘Oh, teens are just communicating with their friends.’ Monitoring kids’ use of smartphones and social media is important, and so is setting reasonable limits, she said.
Dr. Victor Strasburger, a teen medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico, said the study only im- plies a connection between teen suicides, depression and social media. It shows the need for more research on new technology, Strasburger said.
He noted that skeptics who think social media is being unfairly criticized compare it with so-called vices of past generations: “When dime-store books came out, when comic books came out, when television came out, when rock and roll first started, people were saying ‘This is the end of the world.’”
With its immediacy, anonymity, and potential for bullying, social media has a unique potential for causing real harm, he said.
“Parents don’t really get that,” Strasburger said. don’t know about,” Kessler said, adding that it’s more likely that this turtle was just the last survivor of what was once a bigger population of turtles or a hearty traveling turtle that somehow made its way up the Mississippi River.
However it got there, before it was found by Phillips it found at least one other turtle. The scientists know that because on the day Phillips reached down and grabbed the female turtle he thought he was reaching down for a smaller male turtle that has been wearing a radio transmitter ever since scientists released it into the same creek at least a year ago.
It was because the water is so murky, Phillips had no way of knowing that he was grabbing the bigger turtle and not the smaller one that was so close that it was ultimately pulled out of the water in the same spot.
“I was out surfing and I got this massive thud on my right-hand side; it completely blindsided me,” Fry said.
“I thought it was a friend goofing around. I turned and I saw this shark come out of the water and breach its head,” he said.
“So I just punched it in the face with my left hand and then managed to scramble back on my board, shout at me friends and luckily a wave came, so I just sort of surfed the wave in,” he added.
Fry said he wasn’t conscious of his injured and bleeding arm until he reached the shore.
“I didn’t really notice it at the time because when you’re surfing, all I’m thinking was: ‘I’m about to die. I’m literally about to die,’” Fry said.
“So I thought ... ‘get in as fast as possible, ride the wave for as long as you can and then just start paddling for your life,’” he added.
Fry’s friends drove him to Gosford Hospital, where they all worked, to be treated. The beach was closed for 24 hours.
Ibtihaj Muhammad holds a Barbie doll in her likeness at Kings Theatre on Monday in New York.
A rare, wild alligator snapping turtle in a creek in Union County, Ill.