WARNING: Kids Are Disguising Their SELF-HARM HABITS With Hashtags Online To Discuss It

WARNING: Kids Are Disguising Their SELF-HARM HABITS With Hashtags Online To Discuss It

Every adult that interacts with any kid needs to read this. Secret hashtags online are coding kids’ self-harming habits. You may help save a life just by raising your own awareness of this issue – and by knowing the warning signs behind this trending problem:


Rule-breaking may be just as irresistible to teenagers today as it was in their parents’ day, but a new study of secret social media hashtags like #selfharmmm suggests that new technology is helping kids share dangerous behaviors more easily than ever before.

When it comes to what’s known as non-suicidal self-injury – cutting, burning and scratching done with damage rather than death in mind – teens can be quite crafty at deploying hashtags that mask their activities, evade content safeguards and advisory warnings, and make it much harder for parents to monitor their virtual lives.

‘The online communities that develop around these hashtags can draw in adolescents and provide them a strong sense of belonging and support that is centered on these unhealthy behaviors,’ said lead study author Dr. Megan Moreno, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

‘This can make recovery from these behaviors more challenging,’ Moreno added by email.

Moreno and colleagues used the search term #selfharmmm to identify public posts on the social media platform Instagram, a photo-sharing service popular with teens, that related to destructive habits like cutting and burning.
Then, they used the search results to identify a list of ambiguous hashtags such as #blithe, #MySecretFamily and #SecretSociety123 that were tied to the same dangerous behaviors.

Other hashtags related to mental health conditions through use of common names, such as #Deb for depression, #Annie for anxiety, and #Olive for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The number of search results for self-harm hashtags was high and grew over time.
The broad term #cat, which refers to cutting, had more than 44 million search results in 2014 and more than 56 million in 2015, the study team reports in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Over that same period, use of #selfharmmm also grew, generating 1.7 million search results in 2014 and more than 2.4 million in 2015. In its various permutations, #SecretSociety123 grew by approximately 500,000 search results.
One limitation of the study, the authors acknowledge, is its reliance on data generated by starting with a single term, #selfharmmm, which was selected for its popularity as a portal into online communities that focus on these behaviors but might omit some relevant content.

The study results are also limited to self-harm, and don’t look at other destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or eating disorders.

If you need help please use one of these resources below:

*1-800-DON’T-CUT – More info on self-injury

*http://www.selfinjury.com – Referrals for therapists and tips for how to stop.

*1-800-273-TALK – A 24-hour crisis hotline if you’re about to self-harm or are in an emergency situation.

*To Write Love On Her Arms (http://www.TWLOHA.com) – A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

*1-800-SUICIDE – Hotline for people contemplating suicide.

*1-800-334-HELP – Self Injury Foundation’s 24-hour national crisis line.

*1-800-799-SAFE – Domestic violence hotline.

*1-877-332-7333 – Real Help For Teens’ help line.

Written by Katie McGuire. Send your hate mail to the author at [email protected], or feel free to mean tweet me at @GOPKatie, where I will be sure to do very little about it.


Writer, Blogger. Political aficionado. Addicted to all levels of government campaigns.

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