Decreasing engagement and transmission of suicide-related content on TikTok

Project Type(s):

In the US, approximately one in five adolescent and young adults have seriously thought about suicide and one in 11 have made a suicide attempt. Unfortunately, a third to half of adolescent and young adults who are experiencing suicidal and self-injurious thoughts do not seek professional help and when they do, there is a nationwide shortage of mental health professionals available to support them. When adolescent and young adults are in distress, many seek out support and validation through social media. Some content can be helpful and allow them to find a community where they feel connected, receive the support they need, or share effective coping strategies. Other content can be harmful by encouraging them to commiserate and share or promote harmful coping strategies.

TikTok is the most popular digital platform currently used by over 63% of US adolescent and young adults. Its content recommendation algorithms select and display highly personalized content to each individual user such that the more a user engages with a specific type of content, the more this content will be displayed to them. Many other social media platforms are developing similar content recommendation algorithms to increase user engagement. For adolescent and young adults who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and urges, these content recommendation algorithms can amplify their exposure to suicide-related content and increase suicide risk. The purpose of our project is to identify TikTok content and usage behaviors that increase suicide risk. These findings can inform the development of social media interventions for adolescent and young adults who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and urges.

Project Period:
January 1, 2023 December 31, 2023

Funding Type(s):

Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions

Geographic Area(s):
Seattle/Puget Sound

Practice Type(s):
Mixed Methods Observational Study

Patient Population(s):
Adolescents, Young Adults

Targeted Condition(s):
Suicidal Ideation