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TW: New Internet Challenge Pushes Teens to Harm Themselves

A new internet challenge has been pushing teens to commit acts of self-harm. According to new reports, it is believed that one pre-teen in Argentina took their own life as a result of the game.

The sinister “Momo Challenge” dares and bullies teens into performing acts of self-harm. With a creepy image of a distorted face, the “game” sends online messages to teens and young people daring them to take their own life.

If they don’t do it, “Momo” bullies the person with threats and images of the sinister face.

One tech expert, Dave Hatter, believes the game started on Facebook but has since stretched to WhatsApp and Instagram.

Could this be a deeper sign of mental illness?

Many parents have believed that their children are being maliciously influenced by the internet, with online activity leading to spikes in depression. But the children of parents with depression are 40% more likely to end up in the ER compared to their peers.

Like issues regarding allergies and sinusitis, depression can be classified into acute and chronic depression. Chronic illnesses are persistent illnesses that last longer than 12 weeks, or over four months. For those with depression, many of them feel like they don’t have a person to talk to regarding their symptoms or a place to go for treatment.

Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide. While the “Momo Challenge” is a terrifying and potentially harmful game, it may be exacerbating problems that are already prevalent in today’s youth.

But the internet is also a source of good: nearly 90% of depressed teenagers and other young adults have utilized the internet to get more information regarding mental health concerns. They have utilized chat forums, research sites, and social media to vent frustrations and help get more information on their mental health issues. Another 48% of youths who don’t experience symptoms of depression have used the internet for similar purposes.

This survey, conducted by Hopelab, sought to get more information on the ways American youth cope with symptoms of depression. The organization hopes to help people with chronic illnesses, focusing primarily on mental and social health. NBC reports that the internet is helping youths with depression, not causing it.

“The survey confirms that the internet and social media provide safe spaces for people to talk about depression and suicide, even as they may steer them away from seeing medical professionals or therapists who are trained to help,” NBC writer Maggie Fox writes.

The fact that the internet often provides a safe, free outlet for information and support may be a major reason teens are turning to this form of support. Nearly 18% of American teens haven’t reached a basic proficiency in financial literacy.

But social media isn’t the only way teens are reaching out for mental health support. In fact, about one-third of the 90% of teens who looked for support online have spoken to doctors and therapists via texting or video chat options.

In the end, social media is going to be what you make of it. There are indeed pitfalls like the malicious “Momo Challenge.” But the internet has proven time and time again that it can be a positive outlet for those suffering from mental health concerns.