The act of committing suicide is nothing new. Back in the old days where the only sources of information were by way of town gossip or telegraph, you didn’t hear much about suicide, perhaps because it wasn’t as widespread back then and because news just didn’t travel as far or fast. Nowadays we can share information instantly, even when it comes to stories about suicide.
Logan Paul, a 22-year old famous internet personality among teens and young adults, has about 15 million YouTube followers, recently received massive backlash when he visited the “Suicide Forest” in the northwestern part of Mount Fuji, Japan. His popular Vlog is littered with wild and seemingly ignorant videos of he and his posse doing crazy things and is always on the lookout for something new and sensational to record. When he and his crew began recording while walking into the Aokigahara forest (Sea of Trees) they came across a dead body, clearly a person who took their own life. In his usual disgusting manner, he shouts “Yo, are you alive?”… “Are you ** with us?” The video was online for several days in early January, then taken down after he faced a tsunami of negative feedback and abrasive backlash, which I feel he rightly deserved. The young entertainer disappeared for several weeks then released a tasteless apology in his emotional video admitting his mistake, discussed suicide prevention tips, and promised to donate $1 million to charity for suicide prevention. Teens all over the world look up Paul and is currently of the major influencers that’s partly defining teen culture today.
Have you seen Netflix’s original series “13 Reasons Why”? It’s an emotional and heartbreaking story of a suburban teen who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 recordings for the people she says were the reasons she killed herself. The tapes encapsulate everything from betrayal to romantic relationships gone bad, to bullying to sexual assault.
The show debuted in 2017, intended for mature audiences, but heavily viewed (whether their parents knew it or not) by teens and children. The series caused criticism from mental health professionals who jumped in and warned parents that teens who struggle with depression or who have a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviors should not be watching the program.
Is it just me or is it ironic a show that was curated to “help” teens by educating them about suicide, is being warned by professionals against viewing the program? As if the first season wasn’t enough, there’s a second season set to be released sometime in 2018.
It’s not only internet personalities like Logan Paul, or Netflix drama series who draw light to teen suicide (whether good or bad), but posts on social media from teens themselves can attract a lot of attention. Over the past several years we’ve seen teens go to court for advising “friends” to commit suicide. We’ve seen kids post their death on Facebook live or record the whole act on their phone or on other social media outlets for later viewing.
According to researchers, suicide seems to create a copycat effect; sensationalized press coverage of one victim can prompt other people to make similar attempts. Studies measuring the presence of stories about entertainers and political celebrities are more than 14 times more likely to find a copycat effect than their counterparts, whereas studies based on real suicides are 4.03 times more likely to uncover copycat effects than studies based on fictional stories.
If you take this information and apply it to what Logan Paul did by posting the YouTube video and take into consideration the reach of impressionable young minds, he made a significant impact on teens and children across the world, in a very harmful and hurtful way. It makes you wonder how many more teens are thinking about committing suicide after seeing the video. Shame on him.
According to WHO, approximately one million people commit suicide each year worldwide, which is about one death every 40 seconds or 3,000 per day. From 2007 to 2015 suicide rates doubled among teen girls and by more than 30 percent among teen boys. In 2015, five girls per 100,000 committed suicide compared to 14 boys. According to the CDC’s most recent 2016 data, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 and is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18.
However social media and TV shows that glamorize suicide aren’t all to blame. Suicide happens as a culmination of multiple risk factors that pile on top of each other and converge at a moment in time. When parents are faced with economic turmoil and financial stresses, it can also affect their vulnerable youth. Another contributing factor is a teen’s exposure to violence (e.g. child abuse and neglect, bullying, peer violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence) which is associated with increased risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, suicide, and suicide attempts.
Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. Warning signs of suicide can include:
Talking about wanting to die
Talking about feeling trapped
Talking about feeling unbearable pain
Feeling like a burden to others
Acting anxious or agitated
Becoming socially isolated
If your child is having thoughts of suicide, you can reach out to a local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national suicide organization or hotline. Most areas also have youth counseling services with experts in suicide prevention. Schools and churches can be a resource, as well.