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Effect of Internet on Suicide, Self-Harm in Youth Unclear

Online communication may exert both positive and negative influence

THURSDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Internet use may have both a positive and negative influence on youth who are at risk for self-harm or suicide, according to research published online Oct. 30 in PLOS ONE.

Kate Daine, of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and analysis of the literature to assess the influence of Internet use on the risk of self-harm or suicide in young people.

The researchers found that young people who self-harm or who are suicidal often seek support and coping strategies on the Internet. However, some online venues present self-harm as normal and discourage individuals from disclosing their behavior or seeking professional help. Cyberbullying and general Internet use have been associated with greater risk of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and depression.

"There are no known online interventions to date that specifically target young people at risk of self-harm or suicide and yet we find that adolescents who self-harm are very frequent users of the Internet," Daine said in a statement. "We need to know more about how we can use social media as a channel to help young people in distress."

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