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Social media gets blame for rise in youth suicide

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Social media is getting much of the blame for the alarming escalation in suicides and attempted suicides among youth.

According to Susan Phillips, of Cumberland Mental Health Services in Gallatin and Hendersonville, an agency of Volunteer Behavioral Health, a primary cause for suicide among teens is bullying by their peers.

​She noted that before the rise of social media that escape routes were possible for those being bullied to get away from their aggressors.

​ She suggested they could leave school and go home with the peace of mind that they couldn't be reached and could relax from the torment of being bullied if only for a few hours, a day, or a weekend.

​But that is not the case now. Because of social media, bullying can literally be present 24/7.

Clark Flatt, who created the Jason Foundation based in Hendersonville some 20-years ago to help educate teachers and others about suicide after his 16-year-old son took his own life, recently described the rise in suicides among youth as "alarming."

​ Mental health professionals and others including classroom teachers, school administrators, athletic coaches and mentors who are in contact with youth on a daily basis say there are other causes that may lead to suicide and can also be influenced by social media including academic pressure, troubled relationships, domestic challenges at home, and economic concerns. ​

​ The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network notes that as of 2014, the most recent reporting year on record, that suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth (ages 10-19) in Tennessee.

Professionals who deal with youth suicide incidents on a regular basis relate that the causes of suicide can be complicated. Experts generally say that a suicide is not the result of a single factor.

​ To help bring down the numbers and reduce youth suicides, professional counselors at agencies like Volunteer Behavioral Health believe parents, teachers and others who are often engaged with youth need to be educated about the signs that signal a youth may be troubled emotionally.

​ While the list is not necessarily a coverall document, it should certainly include matters such as changes in emotions and feelings, experiences of distress and anger, the appearance of give-up or "I can't do this any longer" attitudes because life is too challenging, changes in appetite, sleep loss, and lost interest in what had been pleasant or enjoyable pastimes like playing sports or participating in certain extracurricular activities.

VBH has professional counselors on staff to deal with issues involving suicide including a 24-hour crisis call center. You can reach VBH at 1-877-567-6051 or visit www.vbhcs.org for more information about their services.

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