We've told you about the teen trend of "sexting" -- where girls typically send naked pics of themselves to guys on their phone, who then forward them all over school. Tragically, the first "sexting suicide" has now occurred.
Jesse Logan sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent them to hundreds of other students. The girls at school harassed her, calling her a slut and a whore. She was miserable and depressed, afraid even to go to school.
Last July, Jessica Logan hanged herself in her bedroom. She was 18.
Last fall, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy surveyed teens and young adults about sexting -- sending sexually charged material via cell phone text messages -- or posting such materials online. The results revealed that 39% of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48% reported receiving such messages.
Parry Aftab, an Internet security expert and activist in the battle to protect teens from the dangers that lurk in cyberspace, said that it is normal kids just like Jesse who fall victim to the perils of the Internet and the easy exchange of information on cell phones.
"We talked about her being a good kid, a normal kid. Those are most of the ones that are sending out those images," she said. "44% of the boys say that they've seen sexual images of girls in their school, and about 15% of them are disseminating those images when they break up with the girls."
Even though her mom knew she was being bullied, she had no idea she was suicidal. Jesse told her mother there were pictures involved and that a group of younger girls who had received them were harassing her, calling her vicious names, even throwing objects at her. But she didn't realize the full extent of her daughter's despair.
Dr. Lisa Boesky, author of "When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help--and What to Do About It," says the following behaviors are important "warning signs" of teens who may be thinking about ending their lives:
- Gives away possessions of value
- Becomes withdrawn and isolated
- Exhibits abrupt personality change
- Drops out of usual routine
- Neglects hygiene
- Engages in self-destructive or risky behavior
- Makes statements about suicide, dying, or being "gone"
- Looks or sounds like feelings of depression are deepening
- Is curious, fascinated, or preoccupied with death
- Talks about feeling inadequate, hopeless, or guilty
Other signs moms should be aware of include statements like: "I won't be a problem for you much longer," '"I wish I were dead," "You'd be better off without me," "You probably wish I would just die."
Certain risk factors also increase a teen's suicide risk, says Dr. Lisa. If your teen suffers from a mental health disorder, uses alcohol/drugs, recently experienced a major stressor, is disruptive or aggressive, has been arrested, or is a perfectionist, be particularly vigilant. Teens who end their lives typically have a combination of risk factors AND warning signs.
If your teen is talking about wanting to die or has made a suicide attempt, he or she must be attended to immediately. Any suicide attempt -- no matter how "harmless" it seems -- requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional who is knowledgeable about teen suicide.
The evaluation should determine:
- your teen's level of risk
- whether he or she suffers from a mental health or substance abuse disorder
- what current stressors are present
- which strategies need to be in place to ensure his or her safety