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Teenage Girl Commits Suicide After Instagram Poll

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 • Common Comments

Malaysia: A 16 year old teenage girl has reportedly committed suicide after the results of a poll she posted on Instagram regarding whether she should live or die. According to police officals in Sarawak, the girl had posted the message: “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L”. 69% of responders suggested that she should kill herself. 

In response to the tragedy, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister said: “I am genuinely worried about the state of our youth’s mental health. It’s a national issue which must be taken seriously.” It is important to consider the role of social media in mental health, especially that of the youth. It has been found that social media can both increase suicide risk and help in suicide prevention. 

Luxton, June and Fairall (2012) suggest that the high amount of information about suicide and methods of killing oneself, cyberbulling, cyberharassment, cybersuicide pacts, the media-contagion effect, the scope to share suicide and self-harm videos, and other social media platforms such as groups that promote and support suicide, act as high risk factors for suicide. 

On the other hand, they also indicate that social connections online, support groups, awareness of help available, help lines and educational resources are social media related resources that can help in the prevention of suicide. Several websites have undertaken various initiatives to support this cause. Examples include Youtube’s preventing suicide videos, a panic button to report cyberbullying and an option to report suicidal content on Facebook, and Instagram’s new initiative to create sensitivity screens to block images of self-harm. While such positive measures instill hope, this tragic incident along with several similar others, poses an important question to citizens in terms of their responsibility while using social media.

The girl’s death has sparked a debate as to whether the 69% of responders are guilty of abetting suicide. Penang lawyer and MP Ramkarpal Singh said: “Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life? Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so? Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life? Since attempted suicide is an offence in this country, it follows that abetting one to attempt suicide may be, too.”  

Such hardhitting questions make one think about their own role as a responsible digital citizen and/or, as a parent of a digitial citizen. 

Suicide Helpline 
Sneha – 91-44-2464 0050, 91-44-2464 0060
E-mail – help@snehaindia.org
Address – #11, Park View Road
R.A. Puram
Chennai - 600028

References
You can read more about the link between social media and suicide here: 

Luxton, D. D., June, J. D., & Fairall, J. M. (2012). Social media and suicide: a public health perspective. American journal of public health, 102 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), S195–S200. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300608 

You can read more about being a responsible digital citizen here: 
https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/responsibilities-that-come-with-digital-citizenship/

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