COLUMBUS, Ohio Teens and young adults are making use of social networking sites and mobile technology to express suicidal thoughts and intentions as well as to reach out for help, two studies suggest.
An analysis of about one month of public posts on MySpace revealed 64 comments in which adolescents expressed a wish to die. Researchers conducted a follow-up survey of young adults and found that text messages were the second-most common way for respondents to seek help when they felt depressed. Talking to a friend or family member ranked first.
These young adults also said they would be least likely to use suicide hotlines or online suicide support groups the most prevalent strategy among existing suicide-prevention initiatives.
The findings of the two studies suggest that suicide prevention and intervention efforts geared at teens and young adults should employ social networking and other types of technology, researchers say.
"Obviously this is a place where adolescents are expressing their feelings," said Scottye Cash, associate professor of social work at The Ohio State University and lead author of the studies. "It leads me to believe that we need to think about using social media as an intervention and as a way to connect with people."
The research team is in the process conducting a study similar to the MySpace analysis by examining young people's Twitter messages for suicidal content. The researchers would like to analyze Facebook, but too few of the profiles are public, Cash said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youths between the ages of 10 and 24 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cash and colleagues published the MySpace research in a recent issue of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. They presented the survey findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.<
|Contact: Scottye Cash|
Ohio State University