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We Should Take a Hard Look at Cyberbullying After Singer Kehlani’s Suicide Attempt

Singer Kehlani Parrish was bullied online after a picture of her and her ex-boyfriend, rapper Jahron Anthony Brathwaite (aka Party Next Door) surfaced on Instagram. The internet assumed she had cheated on her boyfriend, Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving.

After the overflow of mean comments, the singer deleted her social profiles. She broke her silence by posting a picture of herself in the hospital after attempting to commit suicide.

In a report conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide has been on the rise since 1999 for both males and females.

Suicide rates for females, by age: United States, 1999 and 2014

Suicide rates for females, by age: United States, 1999 and 2014

 

Suicide rates for males, by age: United States, 1999 and 2014

Suicide rates for males, by age: United States, 1999 and 2014

Source NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality, via CDCP

We are glad Kehlani was saved from this attempt, but we only wonder how many other young teens are being bullied that are not so lucky.

We took a look at suicide rates amongst teens in the United States and we cannot help but wonder, if only they had considered the resources that were available to them before making that leap of no return.

We sat down with Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a clinical physiologist from Manhattan, NY, to understand the root causes of teen and young adult suicide. Dr. Carmichael has helped New Yorkers successfully understand and master the ways in which the many currents of their lives interact and affect their emotional health. Dr. Carmichael holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from Long Island University. Her private practice focuses on stress management, relationship issues, self-esteem, and coaching.

Bold: How does social media impact teens and young adults emotionally?

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD: The immediacy of social media makes it harder to process emotions and situations at a normal pace. A very private moment (like the example given of Kehlani holding hands in bed with an ex-boyfriend) can suddenly be made public to millions of people, all of whom are offering real-time comments, in a matter of seconds. Our executive lobe is inundated with social feedback that would normally take days or weeks to accrue in a normal “rumor mill” situation. Needless to say, this literally overwhelms the emotional system because it’s more than we’re equipped to process in such a short period of time.

Bold: How can teens and young adults deal with internet bullying?

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD: It needs to be a top-down and bottom-up approach: Teens and young adults (and everyone, really) should be careful not to take photos or send texts they wouldn’t want posted for the world to see. It’s a shame we have to think this way, but ignoring the reality is only doing a disservice to ourselves in the same way that we harm ourselves if we don’t lock our doors at night because we refuse to accept the idea that burglars exist. However, social media sites should be extra-protective of teens and perhaps consider more liberal policies to remove emotionally distressful material if it pertains to someone under 18 who may have exercised poor judgement that in some way facilitated the embarrassing post. On the other hand, sometimes the victim has been targeted in the absence of any regrettable photos – I once worked with a young adult who was bullied in junior high school by boys who created a domain along the lines of “(Person’sName)Sucks.com” listing all the reasons they hated the person, and posting photos they had taken of the person during class or at lunch. This person was so terribly ashamed that he never even told his parents or any adults at school about the issue. Teens or young adults should realize that abuse involves isolating the victim, so they should fight isolation by telling adults, parents, or teachers right away if they’re being bullied.

Bold: What are some resources available for in-person or virtual counseling, anonymously?

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD: I’ve listed some helplines below. Anonymous counseling for teens is tough because of consent issues.

HOTLINES: 
24/7 bullying and crisis hotline for youth up to age 18
855-201-2121
121help.me

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
24/7 crisis hotline
1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project Lifeline
24/7 crisis hotline for LGBTQ youth
1-866-488-7386

Crisis Call Center
800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices.html

CyberTipline
800-843-5678
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
http://www.cybertipline.com

 

Bold: How can parents protect their children who are emotionally disturbed from a recent breakup?

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD: Instead of “protecting” the child, parents can help more by educating the child and offering practical and emotional support. To a degree, parents can actually help by normalizing that breakup’s hurt, and not trying to insulate their children from this pain. Instead of trying to shield them from the pain of a breakup, which doesn’t really help prepare the child for how to deal with breakups as an adult, the parent might consider being with the child through the pain– inviting them to talk about it, spending more time with them, helping the child actively and consciously learn how to redirect their attention, and possibly even guiding the teen to read some books about breakups or offer to book them a therapy appointment if needed.

Bold: What can teens do to protect themselves and their friends from attempting suicide after being humiliated on social media?

Dr. Chloe Carmichael, PhD: Protection from attempting suicide should begin long before a person is humiliated on social media. Parents should delink the idea that humiliation should ever lead to considering suicide. Children should be taught young to develop an active mentality that is completely anti-suicide, even in the most difficult circumstances. This used to be accomplished through religious beliefs that labeled suicide as a sin. Now that those types of religious teachings are often considered non-supportive, they should be replaced with general social rules that disallow suicide as an item on your mental menu. Children or adults who threaten suicide and say they “didn’t really mean it” should be taught that these words are not appropriate, and just like they wouldn’t tell another person they were going to push them off a bridge, they should not say that about themselves either. If they are serious, or admit they were serious in the moment they said it, they should be required to get counseling. We need to understand that resorting to suicidal talk or behavior is not fair to yourself or the people around you.

 

Kehlani may be going through growing pains, but hopefully her situation will help others face their truths and grow into the best version of themselves.

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