Social Media Impact on Mental Health and Suicide

By: Mary Pat Luetke-Stahlman

Mental health begins with you. Various themes on social media including mental health, non-suicidal self harm, and suicide continue to be an issue for people in this community. It has been recognized by professionals that youth engagement with social media includes positive and negative aspect. What the community’s goal should be is to focus on reducing this potential harm. 

What this means is that parents need to have tools for these conversations with their children. Some of the following activities are recommended:

  • Pay attention to various social media trends and uses. Which platforms are the children in your life using and how many accounts do they have? 

  • Monitor the access children have to social media and the internet. 

  • Remember that the level of vulnerability varies and act accordingly. 

  • Be sure to communicate with your children about their “digital lives” and discuss issues happening on social media. 

  • When in doubt, consult with experts or mental health professionals. 

The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has consultation and advisory members available for parents and physicians taking active roles in preventing suicide. 

Parental control tools (list provided by AAS)

  • Cell phone carriers (mobile) provide free parental control options that can limit the amount of time spent on social media, what platforms teens can access, and what hours they can be online. 

  • There are a dozen hardware products that allow disabling or throttling of WiFi access in the house (or on specific devices). This also includes time limits as well. 

  • Internet service providers (ISP) allow parents to choose what content is filtered and limitations on access for age-restricted images or social media sites. 

These tools all have a common component. That is to assist parents in monitoring and adapting user accessibility depending on household members. Boundaries are in the parent’s control and can be expanded, enforced, or relaxed depending on the desires of individuals. 

There is increasing evidence that the Internet and social media can influence suicide-related behavior. Suicide is an area of mental health that is currently heavily focused on. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and in South Carolina.  Today, May 8, “advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the largest suicide prevention organization in the United States, partnered with representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) SCMental Health America (MHA) of SC, and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health to hold a press conference urging lawmakers to continue to prioritize mental health and suicide prevention efforts statewide.“ (AFSP)

Gallaudet University has provided one way for the community to connect with a crisis counselor. Text the word DEAF to 741741 and be connected with a crisis counselor.