Current FSA Recipient

 Current Faculty Scholar Award Recipient - May 2016
 Jennifer Carey, MD

Project Identifying the Role of Social Media in Adolescent Suicide and Self-Harm Attempts
Jennifer Carey

Specific Aims -

One young person dies every two hours by suicide in the United States. Among adolescents, suicide is the second leading cause of death with 157,000 teens presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) annually after a self-harm or suicide attempt.

Social media platforms have changed communication behaviors, including those related to self-harm and suicide. Ubiquitous internet access and transition of social media platforms onto smartphones have paralleled a nearly unanimous online presence among teens. Knowledge and techniques of self-harm and suicide are readily accessible on the internet, with an emphasis on self-poisoning—the most common method of self-injury among teens evaluated in the ED.

This IRB approved project will examine the frequency and modality of social media utilization in teens with self-harm or suicidality in the ED. Alterations in social media engagement may indicate an impending self-harm or suicide attempt and function as a surveillance tool for families of at risk teens. Second, through language and pattern analysis and qualitative description, we will describe the themes of social media posts in the month prior to the ED presentation. Aggregate data from this study will shape a social media profile of at-risk teens that progress to self-harm or suicide attempt.

Significance - 

Recent research has suggested a role for social media among teens who are suicidal, showing that adolescents’ use public Web sites to display comments about their suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and attempts. A 2012 survey showed 95% of teens 12-17 years old are online, and 81% of them use some form of social media. As of 2015, 91% of teens report going online at least once daily, with 24% reporting they are online "almost constantly". Twelve percent of individuals will experience suicidal ideation during their teenage years, and 4 percent will ultimately attempt suicide.

Innovation - 

This study will explore the use of social media among teens with the aim of identifying social media engagement patterns and content of adolescents to help identify those who are at greater risk for attempting self-harm or a suicide attempt. No prior investigators have used social media to develop prediction strategies for adolescents at risk for hurting or killing themselves. This study will advance the field of adolescent behavior health and intervention research by using social media activity to identify when adolescents are at greater risk of harming themselves or attempting suicide. Data will inform suicide prevention campaigns aimed at teens.