A new study has found that teens are using secret hashtags on the social media site Instagram to share non-suicidal self-injury activities with their peers.
“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," Dr. Megan Moreno, who specializes in adolescent medicine at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Research Institute, told Reuters.
“This can make recovery from these behaviors more challenging,” Moreno later told the news service via email.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that young people use these hashtags to get around safeguards set up by Instagram.
Moreno and her fellow researchers searched Instagram for posts containing #selfharmmm, #blithe, #MySecretFamily and #SecretSociety12, which were related to self-injury behaviors.
The study also found that the hashtag #Deb meant depression, #Annie was short for anxiety, #Olive was code for obsessive-compulsive disorder and #cat is an abbreviation for cutting oneself.
The hashtag #cat got more than 44 million search results in 2014, but it jumped to over 56 million in 2015; #selfharmmm had 1.7 million results in 2014, but increased to over 2.4 million in 2015.
The study concluded that non-suicidal self-injury "is popular on Instagram and often veiled by ambiguous hashtags."
"Content Advisory warnings were not reliable; thus, parents and providers remain the cornerstone of prompting discussions about [non-suicidal self-injury] content on social media and providing resources for teens," the study added.
Instagram is not the only social media site where these types of self-harm hashtags are used. Opposing Views searched for #selfharmmm on Twitter and Facebook and found multiple results.
Sources: Reuters, Journal of Adolescent Health via ScienceDirect.com, Twitter, Facebook / Photo Credit: Instagram Logo, QUEEN.PK