To examine the relationship between social media use and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents in the first 30 days of an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for depression and suicidality.
Participants included 100 adolescents who enrolled in an IOP for depression and suicidality and completed baseline measures of social media and weekly measures of depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors at clinical visits over the next month.
Lower levels of social media use (overall and messaging) were associated with a greater likelihood of having suicidal ideation with plan over the next 30 days. There was no effect on suicidal behavior. Multilevel modeling indicated no main effects of social media use on depression or average days of suicidal thoughts. However, individuals with lower levels of social media use maintained more depression symptoms and days with passive death wish across the first month of treatment.
Among adolescents at high risk for suicide, less engagement in social media may reflect social anhedonia or withdrawal, which may heighten risk for more severe suicidal ideation or impede initial treatment. Findings highlight the importance of considering social media as an additional context when assessing social dysfunction in treatment for depression and suicidality.