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Published on March 06, 2019

Suicide and Social Media

There has been a lot of discussion nationally about the fictional character Momo showing up unexpectedly in children’s video and gaming applications. This character suggests they hurt themselves or threatens to hurt their friends if they fail to follow the command to hurt themselves. The Momo character generally is very specific in its instructions to the youth on how to hurt themselves, and in the threats. In other words, they are being bullied on the internet by a made-up character that appears so very real to them. This is very disturbing given the fact that kids are so impressionable. Real or not, it is important that we take this seriously.

Children and adults alike are spending more and more time on electronic devices. Social media does have the benefits of creating a sense of community and connectedness. It also has its disadvantages in how it leads individuals toward isolation and sharing of age-inappropriate content.

Some social media companies are working on strategies to create a safer platform for our children but this will take some time to evolve. In the meantime, it is up to both parents and professionals to create strategies for safe environments for our youth. The American Association of Suicidology has created a tip sheet for parents and providers that can be downloaded here. These tips cover many areas including setting parental controls and tips for adults and what conversations you should be having with your youth about their digital lives.

It is very important that parents also keep an eye on their child’s behavior to determine if they are becoming depressed or suicidal. Common signs to look for are hopelessness, irritability, change in eating habits, change in sleeping habits, or self-harm. If you are concerned about the symptoms your youth is exhibiting, visit our free, confidential online screening or call your health care provider. The Bryan Counseling Center has trained clinicians who can help at 402-481-5991.

If the situation is an emergency and your youth is in crisis, call 911 or go to the Bryan Medical Center West emergency department, which has a 24/7 mental health emergency room available to determine if hospitalization is needed in a mental health crisis. The National Suicide Helpline is 1-800-273-8255 and also is available 24/7.

dave miers

About Dr. Dave Miers

Dave Miers, PhD, is the counseling and program development manager for mental health services at Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb.

He helped establish the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition in 1999 and chaired/co-chaired this Coalition until 2017. He currently serves on the Board of Directors. Dr. Miers is a member of the leadership group for the Lincoln/Lancaster County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Dr. Miers has published research and co-authored a chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research focusing on family survivors of a child suicide. Dr. Miers helped develop the Lincoln Lancaster Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Lincoln, Neb. He also helped develop other LOSS teams in Nebraska and is active with LOSS team development on a national level.

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