CHICAGO (AP) — An increase in suicide rates among U.S. teens occurred at the same time social media use surged and a new analysis suggests there may be a link.

Suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after declining for nearly two decades, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why the rates went up isn’t known.

The study doesn’t answer the question, but it suggests that one factor could be rising social media use. Recent teen suicides have been blamed on cyberbullying and social media posts depicting “perfect” lives may be taking a toll on teens’ mental health, researchers say.

“After hours of scrolling through Instagram feeds, I just feel worse about myself because I feel left out,” said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old Littleton, Colorado, high school senior who helped organize an offline campaign last month after several local teen suicides.

“No one posts the bad things they’re going through,” said Chloe Schilling, also 17, who helped with the campaign, in which hundreds of teens agreed not to use the internet or social media for one month.

The study’s authors looked at CDC suicide reports from 2009-15 and results of two surveys given to U.S. high school students to measure attitudes, behaviors and interests. About half a million teens ages 13 to 18 were involved. They were asked about use of electronic devices, social media, print media, television and time spent with friends. Questions about mood included frequency of feeling hopeless and considering or attempting suicide.

The researchers didn’t examine circumstances surrounding individual suicides. Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the study provides weak evidence for a popular theory and that many factors influence teen suicide.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

Data highlighted in the study include:

— Teen use of electronic devices including smartphones for at least five hours daily more than doubled, from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. These teens were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use.

— In 2015, 36 percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, up from 32 percent in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher — 45 percent in 2015 versus 40 percent in 2009.

— In 2009, 58% of 12th grade girls used social media every day or nearly every day; by 2015, 87% used social media every day or nearly every day. They were 14% more likely to be depressed than those who used social media less frequently.

“We need to stop thinking of smartphones as harmless,” said study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who studies generational trends. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘Oh, teens are just communicating with their friends.’ Monitoring kids’ use of smartphones and social media is important, and so is setting reasonable limits, she said.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, a teen medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico, said the study only implies a connection between teen suicides, depression and social media. It shows the need for more research on new technology, Strasburger said.

He noted that skeptics who think social media is being unfairly criticized compare it with so-called vices of past generations: “When dime-store books came out, when comic books came out, when television came out, when rock and roll first started, people were saying ‘This is the end of the world.’”

With its immediacy, anonymity, and potential for bullying, social media has a unique potential for causing real harm, he said.

“Parents don’t really get that,” Strasburger said.


Locally, If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 9-1-1 or go immediately to the emergency department at King’s Daughters’ Hospital, 1373 N. State Route 62. If you are a student, or the parent/guardian of a student who may be at risk:

Madison Consolidated High School

Janelle Smith, counselor, (812) 274-8398

Carrie Dickerson, counselor, (812) 274-8392

Shareen Roberts, counselor, (812) 274-8119

Nathasha Leahigh, at-risk counselor, (812) 274-8397

Jacob McVey, school resource officer, (812) 274-8401

Madison Junior High School

David Campbell, counselor, (812) 274-8224

Brooke Scanlon, counselor, (812) 274-8003

Betsy Sullivan, counselor, (812) 274-8221

Season Jackson, school resource officer, (812) 274-8381

Deputy Elementary/Ryker’s Ridge Elementary

Nichole Lohrig, at-risk counselor, (812) 274-8007

E.O. Muncie Elementary

Tony Schroeder, at-risk counselor, (812) 274-8004

Lydia Middleton Elementary

Amy Perkins, at-risk counselor, (812) 274-8005

Prince of Peace Schools

Kim Deffenbaugh, counselor, (812) 273-2150 Ext. 227

Southwestern Elementary School

Jason Poteet, counselor, (812) 866-6204

Southwestern Middle and High School

Devin Brierly, counselor, (812) 866-6234

Dan Dattilo, counselor, (812) 866-1250

Lori Slygh, counselor, (812) 866-6201

Stephen McClellan, school resource officer, (812) 866-1243


3008 North Bevcher Drive

Access Line: (800) 344-8802

or (888) 291-4357 (HELP)

Outpatient mental health and addiction services for people of all ages. Walk-ins are welcome during business hours.


1405 Bear Street

(812) 265-4513

Offers outpatient or partial hospitalization services for mental health issues for all age groups. Fees charged according to ability to pay for those without insurance.

A project of the Community Health Network, based in Columbus, this website features a quick quiz to help users gauge their level of depression, which can be shared with a health care provider; information for teens, young adults, parents and educators; and where to find help.

Military Family Assistance Center, Indiana National Guard, New Albany

(800) 650-7756

Provides information, referrals and support, including crisis counseling, to active duty service members, veterans from all branches of the military and family members.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

Text “HOME” to 741741 or send a message to

Confidential Lifeline Crisis Chat

Program available to anyone who is depressed, despairing, going through a hard time, or just needs to talk, including people who are thinking about suicide. Any life issues may be discussed on the Chat program with specialists who can listen and offer support.

Jason Foundation offers “A Friend Asks,” a free app that can be downloaded onto IOS and Android phones, providing quick access to information on how to respond if you recognize a friend may be thinking about suicide, or if you need to ask for help.

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

Founded in 2005, SPTS offers a 17-minute video, which can be accessed for free on the website, called, “Not My Kid: What Every Parent Should Know About Youth Suicide.” Offers information for parents, teens, young adults and educators about the warning signs and how to help when a friend or someone close talks about thoughts of suicide. Also provides information for young people who have experienced the death of a friend or loved one from suicide, and for parents about how to talk to their children about suicide, as well as information for college students in need of services.

The JED Foundation

A nonprofit that promotes emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults.

The Trevor Project

A nonprofit that specializes in supporting the LGTBQ community.

(866) 488-7386 or text “TREVOR” to (202) 304-1200.