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Teenagers are turning to a dark corner of the social media landscape for disturbing advice. Self-harm bloggers, according to researchers from the University of Oxford, are sharing pictures ranging from cutting wounds to details of the latest suicide techniques.
Their review of 14 worldwide studies assessed whether Internet forums did more harm than good. NPR subsequently reported, “Social media and online groups can provide support for young people at risk of self-harm and suicide…But they can also increase the risks…exposing teenagers to cyber-bullying and endorsements of self-harm.”
The findings also linked Internet use to more violent methods of self-harm.
“The studies found a strong link between online forums and increased risk of suicide…In one study, 60 percent of the 429 participants said they had learned suicide techniques online. In another study, 80 percent of teenagers who had seriously injured themselves said they had gone online to research self-harm” (ibid.).
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24, which totals about 4,600 lives lost each year.
“We are talking about vulnerable young people who are going online specifically to find out more about harming themselves or because they are considering suicide already,” said Paul Montgomery, co-author of the study, in a press release. “The question is whether the online content triggers a response so that they self-harm or take their own lives and we have found that there is a link.”