top of page

Teen Suicide and Social Media

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

By Jane Lubsen

Snapchat. Instagram. YouTube. Facebook. Social media and teens go hand in hand. Add these two things together and you get two results: happiness or depression. Depression can lead to isolation and suicidal thoughts. So let's not contribute to depression and let’s shift this new comment culture towards a better direction.

Is it a coincidence that teen suicide attempts and rates have surged since smartphones have been the norm in teens’ hands? “New research finds 95% of teens have access to a smartphone; 45% online ‘almost constantly”. Meanwhile, “the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33% in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased by 23%. Even more troubling, the number of 13 to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped a whopping 31%” (Guardian, 2017).

These rising statistics are all related. Most of us have an account for social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Kik, etc. Since Instagram was launched in 2010, it has grown to 500 million daily users and 800 million monthly. And since the creation of social media, the suicide rate for 15-19-year-olds has accelerated quickly. Furthermore, the controlling power of images and comments on social media has painted our mind to change the way we speak, socialize, and treat people.

Consider a teenager named Sadie Riggs, only 15 years old. Sadie had overcome challenges before: abandoned by her drug addicted mother when she was little and bullied by her peers. Sadie’s aunt, said, “The taunting started in the school hallways but became inescapable.” Sadie was tormented on Facebook, Instagram, Kik, where classmates would tell her to kill herself. Some of the brutal comments that her classmates had left her took a substantial toll on her. Sadie’s aunt went to the police and went to the school. She even contacted Instagram headquarters, and “they didn't do anything about it,” she said. Sadie killed herself on June 19, 2017. As of today, Instagram and other headquarters won't respond to messages like Sadie’s family complaints. As long as companies are making money, there’s nothing much they care about.

In response to the rising teen/high school suicides, more movie makers, and even Broadway producers, are addressing the topic. The movie world has created movies about teen bullying and cyberbullying, suicide and other tough topics to show how everyone, not just the troubled teen, can end up hurt in a media world of negativity and isolation. The Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen addresses teen suicide. It teaches that with one person gone everyone realizes how alone they all have felt and that they weren’t alone in these feelings. Audiences learn that everyone needs someone to be by their side throughout life.

We may live in a social media comment culture, but it doesn’t have to rule. In fact, let’s be reminded of the Golden Rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. No one wants to have hateful comments sent to them. No one wants to feel alone all the time. Teen thoughts should not often be about going away and never coming back. But there are people out there who are feeling this every single day because of people just like us. We triggered the thoughts and didn’t even notice. The hurtful comments, judgments, and social media make us see the “perfect person,” and make us feel like we will never be that. Let's not contribute to depression and change this new comment culture towards an upward direction. Treat people the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule applies to social media too. Then, maybe compassion will squash depression, and teens will see a life worth living.


bottom of page