*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
American teens are increasingly turning to the social media giant Instagram to share graphic images of their own attempts to harm themselves, a new study reveals.
“It could be an attempt to share their emotional or psychological pain with others or find support from others,” said study lead author Amanda Giordano. She is an associate professor of counseling and human development services at the University of Georgia, in Athens. “It could be to discuss different forms of self-injury or how to hide it or do it in a way that does not lead to infection. It could also be a way of seeking help and reasons to stop.”
No matter the reason, researchers who tracked Instagram throughout 2018 found that teen postings focused on self-harm — such as cutting or burning oneself — rose significantly over the course of the year.
In January and February of 2018, for instance, teens posted between 58,000 and 68,000 images with hashtags related to some form of self-injury in which suicide was not the apparent goal. The researchers labeled such images as reflective of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI).
But by December of 2018, that figure had shot up to over 112,000, the study found, with notable rises in the use of three hashtags: #selfharm, #hatemyself, and #selfharmawareness.
The big picture was also bleak: Overall in 2018, more than 1.2 million teen NSSI posts were identified on Instagram accompanied by one of the three hashtags, along with two others: #cutting and #selfharmmm.
Overall, the hashtag #selfharm was most closely linked with suicide (25.4%), then depression (25.2%), followed by self-injury (13.1%) and general mental distress (9.5%), the study found.
The hashtag #hatemyself was most associated with suicide (32.1%), then depression (31.2%), self-injury (19.9%), and anxiety/panic (6.7%).
A rise in teenage self-harm itself appears to be driving the rise in online expressions about it, Giordano said.
The findings were published recently in the International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling.