Researchers from Rutgers University and Network Contagion Research Institute recently released a study that found self-harm posts on social media increased by 500% between October 2021 and October 2022. More and more, teens are sharing their struggles online, but not in search for healthy support or encouragement to seek professional help. Rather, teens are posting about self-harm to find people who affirm them in this behavior, even advising them in ways to hide self-harm from others, especially their parents.
In October 2021, the hashtag “shtwt," which means, "self-harm twitter," was tweeted 3,880 times. By July 2022 it was being mentioned 30,000 times a month. Twitter and other social media companies have been criticized for doing little to moderate self-harm content.
More recently, with the popularization of "MAID," or "medical assistance in dying," in Canada, many Canadian teens are posting about their hopes to apply for the program as soon as they turn 18, or even that they were encouraged by a doctor or therapist to do so. The responses these posts get are incredibly discouraging, as they are mostly from other teenagers who feel the same way. Twitter’s policy on self-harm prohibits users from “encouraging someone to physically harm or kill themselves” or “asking others for encouragement to engage in self-harm or suicide, including seeking partners.” Despite this policy, MAID conversations have not been impeded on the platform at all.
Parents of teenagers need to be aware of self-harm posts and suicidal ideation amongst youth. Parents can read Axis' free Parent's Guides to Depression and Anxiety and Social Media.
To read more about the new self-harm social media study, click here.