Suicide prevention advocates urge teens to limit time on social media
Facebook executives answered questions on Capitol Hill on Thursday, after recently revealing that they knew their Instagram app had a negative impact on teenage girls. The congressional hearing is looking into how social media affects the mental health of young people.
Recently released Facebook research shows that 1 in 3 teenage girls say that their body image issues were made worse by Instagram. It does not come as a surprise to some parents.
“My first response was, ‘Duh.’ I mean, who wouldn’t have known that,” says mother Rachelle St. Phard.
St. Phard lost her son Coby to suicide five years ago when he was a high school senior and soccer star. After his death, St. Phard founded the Be The Li9ht Foundation in Coby’s honor to help other young people who are struggling.
“They show people’s life perfect. I wish more people would share realness…especially young people. It’s difficult at their age. They’ve got peer pressure and they want to fit in,” St. Phard says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped teens to separate from their virtual worlds, according to Eleanor Letcher, who runs Contact of Mercer County, a volunteer-based suicide prevention group.
“They couldn’t go to school, couldn’t go out. So who was available? Just grab your cellphone and you’ll find someone available,” Letcher says.
Earlier this month, St. Phard opened the Be the Li9ht Center in Hightstown. It is a gathering place where teens can hang out, talk and feel supported in person, instead of on social media. Her message to the teens is that there is hope and there is help.
“When you are young, you don’t realize this too shall pass. Whatever is happening in that moment is the most difficult thing and you can’t see past it. But there is help and I encourage young people to reach out,” she says. “That’s the biggest thing. You are not alone – it will get better.”
Contact of Mercer County accepts calls on their suicide hotline and online chat form all over the state.
The Be the Li9ht Center will have a grand opening festival next month.
Contact of Mercer County - 609-896-2120
Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255