Mental health experts share worries about media exposure to suicide

One mental health expert said it is important for parents to know what a child is consuming in the media. (FILE)

With smartphones and tablets easily accessible, mental health experts said they worry about kids' exposure to suicide or bullying in the media.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24.

Kimberly Smith, a social worker for the Boone Hospital Employee Assistance Program, said themes of suicide can be harmful to children.

"It can be dangerous. Especially the younger they are, the more difficult it can be for them to have exposure," Smith said.

She also said it is important for a parent and/or guardian to be aware of what the child is being exposed to in the media.

"Do some work ahead of time to prevent exposure. That doesn't mean that they don't know facts. However, I don't think they always need to know all the details around say a suicide, how it was done, the events leading up to it. I think it's important to know your kid and share with them what they are comfortable with," Smith said.

Smith said children learn a lot from what they are exposed to in the media.

"It can be dangerous for children especially if it is glorified or somehow made to seem this wonderful thing. Kids can pick up on that. They are little sponges and they may decide on their own that this maybe is an option for them or they may become preoccupied with death or worried their friends might hurt themselves so I think it is important to keep some parameters around exposure to suicide," Smith said.

The Centers for Disease Control included a few signs a young person might be considering suicide:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from people or activities
  • Thinking or talking about threatening suicide
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood changes

The CDC also suggested suicide can be prevented by detecting warning signs. It said prevention methods can include general suicide awareness education, school and community gatekeeper programs, screening and peer support programs, crisis centers and hotlines, restriction of access to lethal means, counseling and clinical interventions, and postvention (intervention with friends/family/community after a suicide takes place). The CDC also said it is important to get someone help as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts the Suicidal Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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