The Causes of Teen Suicide Essay Example



Often times we don’t notice the signs until it’s too late; however, 4 out of 5 teens who have attempted suicide showed warning signs. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents in the U.S., so what is causing so many teens to deliberately end their lives? While social media is a huge contributor to teen suicide in this new and improving technological world, society also needs to take into consideration other factors such as streaming service platforms and bullying. 

Although social media has made a huge impact on our world, it may be more detrimental than beneficial, especially to youths in this new generation of technology. Social media can be a source of communication, a place to be creative, and make friends, but it can also be a distraction, can disrupt sleep, expose kids to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and peer pressure (mayo clinic). Jacob Grandstaff (11) argues that “the increase in depressive symptoms and suicide among teens rose across all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses…” since 2009: when social media started to become popular. This shows how discrimination was not the cause of these depressive symptoms and suicides, but social media, because that has been a humongous factor, and probably one of the biggest societal shifts in our lives since around 2009. “Nearly one third of about 1,300 parents of five to seventeen year olds blamed social media for mental and emotional health problems in children.” (14) This shows a different perspective, being parents, and how they also agree that social media is not in fact fully beneficial to kids. Mental illness is one of the biggest risk factors for suicide. More specifically, there are certain social media apps that are the worst for mental health, according to a study of 1,500 teens, including: Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat. Instagram is “associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO (fear of missing out).”(17) One respondent of the survey felt that Instagram destroys girls’ body image as people can create a false sense of reality with filters and editing. In addition, public health experts think suicide notes that are posted on Tumblr can cause copycat behavior and “could actually present a very warped, romanticized narrative on suicide to the exact group of kids who need to hear the opposite” (2).  This further exemplifies how social media can portray a false sense of reality.

Along with social media comes the negative effects of overall screen time. Yes, with moderation, screen time can have educational value, or be a fun way to socialize or communicate, but this is not always the case. Jacob Grandstaff (11) also argues that “teens who spend five or more hours per day on electronic devices (versus one hour) run a 66% higher risk of having at least one suicide-related outcome.” Suicide related outcomes include: suicide, attempted suicide, self-harm, depression and more. Also, (11) “teens that indulged in less screen time significantly reduced their likelihood of depression and suicide.” This clearly indicates a link between increased screen time and poor mental health. Kids who spend more time on social media further expose themselves to the negative side of it. (11) “Teens over-reliance on electronic devices for leisure can have devastating effects on their social and psychological health.” When teens are primarily socializing through their phones, they are not getting the proper social skills they need, along with the fact that “teens whose face times with friends are mostly on their phones are lonely and even those who mix real-world socializing with social media are increasingly isolated. (14)” This demonstrates how increased screen time causes less time spent with other people, which is the cause of kids’ loneliness. 

Furthermore, there are numerous trends in data to support the fact that suicide in adolescents has been increasing since social media was introduced into our lives. 10.9% of adolescents made a suicide plan in 2009, and 13.6% in 2017. 6.3% of adolescents attempted suicide more than once in 2009 and 7.4% in 2017. (10). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveyed over 600,000 Americans in 2017. They found that depression increased 69% among sixteen to seventeen year olds, the suicide rate among eighteen to nineteen year olds increased 56% from 2008-2017, and behaviors related to depression have also increased (12). Some people think “young people are just more willing to get help or counseling centers' efforts are becoming more effective. (12)” When in reality, all of this data supports the fact that this is in fact a generational issue. Parents also have a similar perspective. 89% of parents agreed that suicide among teenagers is on the rise (15). 

There is a lot of controversy over Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” and its impact on teens. A study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health suggested “13 Reasons Why was a factor in a rise in teen suicides. The suicide rate among people ages ten to seventeen went up by nearly a third in April 2017, the month after the show launched on Netflix. (4)” This evidence proves the point that Netflix could have had an impact on the increase in the number of suicides after the show was released, but the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the show had no clear effect on suicide among adolescents (5). An APPC reanalysis of data found no significant increase in suicide among adolescent females after the show launched (5). Contrary to the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s beliefs, Bridge et al. stated Netflix was actively advertising the show “that targeted youth and encouraged them to watch this dramatization of an adolescent girl’s suicide.”  

Another major cause of teen suicide is bullying. Social media facilitates bullying because it makes it easier to be mean to others when you are not face to face with them. This results in cyber bullying, and with the popularity of social media, came cyber bullying. The term “bullycide” is “finding its way into the educational lexicon as a result of several teen suicides that were attributed at least in part to bullying (13).” At least one third of American kids are bullied. Bullying causes “depression, further isolation, absenteeism, an aversion to risk taking and poor academic performance. (13)”  All of these are extremely damaging to mental health. With the access to phones 24/7, cyber bullying is rising, especially among girls. 

It is no surprise that teen suicide is increasingly becoming more of a problem with all of these new factors in the lives of this new generation including: social media and phones, Netflix and other streaming platforms, and cyber bullying. Social media and increased screen time have been extremely detrimental to the mental health of teens. Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” may have caused a spike in suicides after being launched, and bullying is increasing even more with the use of cell phones. Teen suicide and mental health matters because Generation Z is the future of our world. Generation Z makes up more than 25% of the United State’s population, and is the most diverse generation in the nation's history. This means society needs to do more for this generation. They need to give easier access to treatment for mental health, provide more community support, and teach proper coping and problem solving skills. So next time you find yourself or a friend in a bad mental state, seek help and continue to try and make this world a better place.