A new study reveals that teens in America are turning to Instagram, which is a social media giant to share graphic images of their attempts at self-harm.
Amanda Giordano, the lead author of the study said that in order to find support from others, or share their emotional or psychological pain, they use these platforms.
Self-Harm Posts Are Soaring On Social Media
She added that it can also serve to be a platform where people can find out how they can hide the different forms of self-injury or how to do it in a way that does not end up being infected.
It could also be a way to seek help and find reasons to stop.
Regardless of the reason, it was found by researchers that teen postings on Instagram regarding self-harm increased throughout 2018. Self-harm involves cutting or burning oneself.
Teens, between Jan and Feb of 2018, posted between 58,000 and 68,000 images that had hashtags that were related to some type of self-injury.
The apparent goal of self-harm was not suicide. These images were labeled by the researchers as non-suicidal self-injury.
That figure, by the end of December 2018 had gone up to more than 112,000. The study found that there was a notable rise in the usage of 3 hashtags: #selfharm, #selfharmawareness, and #hatemyself.
Over 1.2 million teen NSSI posts were identified in 2018 that were accompanied by one of those three hashtags. There were 2 other hashtags involved: #cutting and #selfharmmm.
The most closely linked hashtag to suicide was #selfharm, with 25.4%. The study found that this was followed by depression with 25.2%, then self-injury with 13.1% and general mental distress with 9.5%.
Giordano said that the rise in online expressions about self-harm seem to be driven by a rise in teenage self-harm.
In the previous year, research had shown that about 17% of American teens had harmed themselves, and this was noted by her. The worrying part is the fact that this percentage is increasing.
Among college freshmen, a recent study indicated that self-harm levels rose by 3% in 2008 but crossed 19% in 2015.
Giordano said that such findings, along with other recent research suggests that a substantial number of individuals are affected by self-injury and the amount is just going to increase.
She continued by saying that it is not surprising that as the amount of self-injury increases, the hashtags related to this are also increasing on social media.
Several indications were found by Giordano and her colleagues that this was exactly what was happening.
It was noted by the team that #selfharm was not used a single time in Jan 2018, but by December, it had over 45,000 posts.
Towards the end of the year, only 1 of these 3 hashtags saw a drop in usage.
Giordano suggested that several needs that Instagram cannot fulfill are had by teens and this leads them to share their experiences of self-harm.
She added that it could also be a risk copy-cat phenomenon. The more teens witness other teens sharing these posts, the more they could become inclined to imitate and share that experience online.
The analysis, regardless of the main motivator, raised a troubling concern. The two most commonly linked hashtags to self-harm were #suicide and #depression.
She said that people seem to be associating suicidal thoughts as well as depression with self-harm and to her, this emphasized the importance of discussing mental health with youth in order to ensure that they have adequate support.
Dr. Robert Glatter seconded this though. In New York, he is an emergency medicine physician.