Twitter self-harm hashtag concerning for Utah mental health experts

Aug 31, 2022, 4:30 PM
Former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account has been reinstated on the platform....
Former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account has been reinstated on the platform. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s been a 500% increase in a self-harm hashtag on Twitter. And it has mental health experts asking the social media company to implement existing rules on graphic photographs.

The concern comes after a report by the Network Contagion Research Institute. It found a community that promotes self-harm is circulating graphic depictions of self-harm on Twitter. And, that Twitter’s algorithms are pushing the photos to people who may be searching for help for self-harm.

Related: Is it time for parents to remove kids from social media?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes self-harm as intentionally injuring yourself, typically with a sharp object.

Another concern is whether these social media posts may be linked to more people who are self-harming. Mindy Westlund Schreiner, a licensed clinical psychologist with the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, told KSL NewsRadio that at least in the recent past, instances of self-harm haven’t increased.

“Self-harm has generally been leveled off for a while,” Westlund Schreiner said. But new epidemiological research might find an uptick linked to  Twitter.

“We do know that emergency department visits related to suicidal ideation and self-harm has increased in the last couple of years since the pandemic,” Westlund Schreiner said.

Is there a cause-and-effect relationship?

Concern that a growing social media trend may prompt more young people to think about self-harm is not unfounded. Research published in 2020 on the effects of the “blue whale challenge” concluded that posts about suicide, especially if they are repeated, can normalize suicide, especially among adolescents.

Related: Expert gives tips on conquering your downward social media scroll

“Those images can increase suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and kind of serve as a way to reinforce the behavior, instead of as a way to support and help others find a different behavior,” Westlund Schreiner said.

Parents, kids, and discussions about Twitter, self-harm

The beginning of the school year is a good time for parents to talk about topics like self-harm.

“A lot of this can be couched in wanting to discuss what their child is thinking about the school year… how do you feel about school starting, what are you looking forward to,” Westlund Schreiner said. “It’s a conversation that could easily lead into whether the child has heard anything recently about self-harm on Twitter, and if that’s something that concerns the student.”


If you or anyone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline.

Or call 1-800-273-TALK, or the Huntsman Mental Health Institute 1-801-583-2500.


Today’s Top Stories

Mental Health Resources

world suicide prevention day 2020...
Amie Schaeffer and Lindsay Aerts

Utah adults have highest mental illness rate in country

A study found 26.86% of adults in Utah report some kind of mental illness including substance use disorder and thoughts of suicide.
4 months ago
utah women suicide...
Simone Seikaly

In Utah, more women are likely to attempt suicide than men

Utah women have specific risk factors for suicide, including domestic violence, religious dissonance, opioid and substance use, and LGBTQ+ identies.
5 months ago
Gov. Cox mental health...
Allie Litzinger

Gov. Cox opens up about past mental heath struggles at press conference

Gov. Cox spoke of a friend's suicide, Utah's high suicide rate, and resources that are available to those experiencing mental health issues.
5 months ago
kids and body image KSL radio...
Simone Seikaly

How to help kids maintain a healthy body image in the digital age

Body image issues can arise in kids as young as 3 years of age. A psychiarist joins Dave and Dujanovic to offer insight.
6 months ago
Incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, debates GOP primary challenger Erin Rider aon Tuesday, May 31...
Simone Seikaly

Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week

It's been a long time in the making but the new number to call for suicide prevention, 988, will finally be live across the nation this week.
7 months ago
mental health rural...
Don Brinkerhoff

Staffing may be short at Huntsman Mental Health Institute; expert says reach out anyways if you need help

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute is experiencing a staffing shortage, but Business Operations Manager Anne Stephens says to call anyways if you need help.
8 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Twitter self-harm hashtag concerning for Utah mental health experts