Technology Tuesday: YouTube, Logan Paul, and the Allure of Suicide

youtube-new-logo-e1504250123885.jpg

Suicide has become an increasingly popular topic in our counseling offices.  More kids than ever are talking about it, in one way or another...  Tragically, exponentially more kids are talking about ending their lives.  Many of these kids are genuinely contemplating suicide as an option.  And, as always, if you ever hear your child mention it or seen any reference your child has written about suicide, in person or on social media, our recommendation is always the same:  take them directly to the hospital.

That said, because suicide has become such a common topic among kids today—and not just teenagers (we have kids as young as 8 who are talking about it), it’s also generated a certain allure.  Kids are drawn to the topic.  They are curious and intrigued by the idea, at times.  

I saw a young woman who had created a Pinterest board recently with suicidal images and quotes.  She wasn’t considering suicide herself, but had a close friend who had introduced her to much of the content.  And much of that content came from YouTube.

You may have already heard about Logan Paul, who found his fame on the internet video service, Vine.  He has since garnered quite a following, particularly among kids.  He posts “vlogs” (Video blogs) of every type of content imaginable from comedy sketches to tasering rats.  (I know, right?!)  On December 31, 2017, he uploaded a vlog that was filmed in the “suicide forest,” that was what brought Paul to my attention.  I hadn’t heard of the suicide forest or of Paul, until I met this young woman.  

In case you hadn’t either, let me fill you in.  The forest is at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, and is known to be a “suicide site,” where many people have gone to end their lives.  Paul happened on to a recently deceased corpse hanging in the suicide forest and uploaded it to his site.  The video gained 6.3 million views within 24 hours of being uploaded.

Since hearing of Paul for the first time, I’ve heard his name quite a bit.  I’ve also heard more and more information about the allure of suicide.  YouTube seems to have channels that cater specifically to this idea.  One teenager I saw talked about suicide with the word “sensual” attached to it.

At Raising Boys and Girls, we’re doing our best to turn the tide.  We need to equip kids proactively with healthy ways to process their emotions.  Our recent book and podcast, both called Are My Kids on Track, are one of our attempts to do just that.  We also want to help kids remember that they’re not alone, that there are always options and help, and…most importantly, there is always hope. 

If your child is on YouTube, read our previous blog post about how you can keep them safe.  If you have a teenager, talk to them about things they’ve seen on YouTube.  Ask them about Logan Paul—most kids are familiar with him.  Ask them what they think about his videos and even what they think about mental health and the prevalence of suicide today.  We want to support our kids in every way possible, and talking with them is a foundational way to do that.  In the meantime, follow along with us for more information on what to watch for and how to help the kids we love navigate the culture that surrounds them.  There is always hope.  For them and for us, as the adults who love them.