Suicide is a sensitive, uncomfortable topic that nobody is ready to discuss openly. It continues to be a subject of stigma, thereby discouraging suicidal persons to talk about it. This is a challenge for those working towards suicide prevention. But a new trend has emerged, that could potentially help detect and prevent teenage suicide attempts.

An increasing number of troubled teens are posting messages of depression and suicidal feelings on social networking sites and blogs. A glaring example of this is 17-year-old Ohio resident Leelah (Josh) Alcorn, who committed suicide recently but not before posting a lengthy and articulate suicide note on Tumblr, scheduled to be published after his death. Experts advise parents and caregivers to monitor their teen’s social networks for any indication of self-harm, so that they can intervene at the right time.

For youth between the ages of 10 and 24 in the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 deaths each year, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A nationwide survey of youth in grades nine to 12 in public and private schools in America found that 16 percent of students reported seriously considering suicide, 13 percent reported creating a plan, and 8 percent tried to take their own life. Each year, approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments in the US.

If social media is the place where teens confide, parents and teachers must keep a close watch on it.

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.