Denver, Colo., Oct 24, 2017 / 14:51 pm
The growing problem of teen suicide is one that should be met with prayer and efforts to help young people develop healthy use of social media, said Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver in a recent column.
“Suicide by teens in Colorado is tragically on the rise,” Archbishop Aquila said in an Oct. 24 column for the Denver Catholic.
“In 2014 there were 50 students who took their own life, but in 2015 the toll rose to 72 and remained elevated with 68 in 2016,” he noted, pointing to several local middle school and high school students who committed suicide at the beginning of this school year.
As the community struggles to make sense of these increasing tragedies, it is important to address the role of social media and its effect on teens’ sense of self-worth and struggle with suicidal thoughts, he said.
While the teenage years have “always been a time of uncertainty, as physiological and emotional development takes place,” the archbishop said, the pervasive influence of social media in today’s world adds a new dimension to adolescence in the 21st century.
“Bullying has always existed, and it always attacks the basic dignity of another human being through demeaning the person. But when we crossed the threshold in 2012 of more than 50 percent of Americans owning a smartphone, bullies gained access to their peers on a scale never seen before.”
With studies showing that 3 in 4 teens use Snapchat and Instagram daily, these bullies have access to “a virtual megaphone,” around-the-clock availability, and a greater level of anonymity than in previous generations, he said.
“The introduction of these apps has also led to a new phenomenon in which about six percent of teens resort to ‘digital self-harm’ by posting anonymous hateful messages about themselves for their friends to see,” the archbishop continued. “This allows them to get attention from their friends while also airing their internal feelings.”