Suicide is a leading cause of death for Nebraska teenagers and a new study finds Internet use is among the top contributing risk factors.
Dr. Benjamin Shain authored the report for the American Academy of Pediatrics and says more than five hours of daily internet use is linked with high levels of depression. He warns parents that blocking access to a teen’s online social network likely won’t help.
“It interferes with having the good relationship which you need for providing support and guidance. It can have a net negative affect,” Dr. Shain says. “Whatever you gain in terms of decreasing screen time and monitoring, I think you’re losing much more in terms of being able to provide support and guidance.”
A state survey released this year shows 20% of Nebraska high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for two straight weeks, raising concern about teen suicide. Nearly 10% of high school students reported making a suicide plan, while 6% attempted suicide. Those rates are lower than the national average.
Bullying is also considered a major risk factor in teen suicide. Shain, a child psychiatrist, says online bullying can be as serious as face-to-face bullying.
“Both bully victims and bully perpetrators are affected and the group that’s affected the most is the group who are both victims and perpetrators,” Shain says. “They had the highest increase in mental-health concerns, suicidal thoughts and behaviors and suicides.” Shain says one of the best ways for parents to help prevent youth suicide is to talk openly and calmly with their kids.
The Department of Health and Human Services study released in February found thoughts of suicide among 18-to-25 year olds in Nebraska are slightly higher than the national average. Suicide was the leading cause of injury death for Nebraskans between 25 and 64, and the second-leading cause of injury death for all age groups combined between 1999 and 2003.
If you are considering suicide, you can get help by calling National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).