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Social media and adolescent suicide: exploring risks, benefits, and opportunities for prevention

Biernesser, Candice (2019) Social media and adolescent suicide: exploring risks, benefits, and opportunities for prevention. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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During the same time period that suicide rose to the 2nd leading cause of death among adolescents, the proportion of youth who use social media multiple times per day has doubled, and now encompasses 70% of US adolescents. These are concerning trends, because maladaptive use of social media is associated with adverse mental health effects with particularly concerning ramifications for adolescent suicidal risk. While this linkage to suicidal risk remains evident, adolescents report notable benefits to use of social media, including the provision of social support and connectedness. This dissertation focuses on three critical gaps in the literature aimed to explore the association between adolescent suicidal risk and social media use.
First, since the most recently conducted systematic reviews on this topic ended their searches, the literature is estimated to have doubled in size. To address this gap, the first paper presents the results of a literature review which provides an update of social media-related risk and protective factors for adolescent suicide through May 20th, 2018.
Second, effective methods to monitor at-risk adolescents’ use of social media are needed. The dissertation paper offers the results from a formative study that aims to develop an acceptable approach to social media monitoring for suicidal youth. The results of a mixed methods study are presented that explore the social media experiences of suicidal adolescents and their parents.
Third, longitudinal studies evaluating the relationship between adolescent suicide and social media use have measured a limited scope of risk and protective factors and have focused on youth within the general population. The third paper presents the iterative development of an ecological momentary assessment tool that aims to measure a range of risk and protective factors for adolescent suicide associated with distressing social media experiences.
This dissertation offers public health significance through formative investigation aimed to expand our understanding of social media’s influence on youth suicidal risk and explore avenues for prevention. It does so through a current evaluation of the literature, a measure that could provide insights on proximal suicidal risk, and suggestions for an acceptable monitoring approach for youth at risk of suicide.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Biernesser, Candicecll76@pitt.educll76
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTrauth, Jeanettetrauth@pitt.edutrauth
Committee MemberTodd, Beartobst2@pitt.edutobst2
Committee MemberDavid, Brentbrent@pitt.edubrent
Committee ChairChristina, Maircmair@pitt.educmair
Date: 26 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 April 2019
Approval Date: 26 June 2019
Submission Date: 2 April 2019
Access Restriction: 3 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 3 years.
Number of Pages: 175
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adolescent, suicide, social media
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 17:50
Last Modified: 01 May 2022 05:15


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