1. Rainbow Road
What it is: The DEA has warned of brightly-colored pills and powders containing fentanyl that are being sold to young consumers.
Why it’s on the rise: So-called “rainbow fentanyl” has been seized in 18 US states. Drug enforcement authorities believe that these pills are being purposely made to look like candy in order to entice young adults, calling it a “deliberate effort to drive addiction.” Certain colors or “flavors” may be marketed as more potent than others—but fentanyl in all of its forms can be deadly. Drug poisoning via fentanyl continues to be one of, if not the leading cause of death for adults under the age of 45. Fear-mongering isn’t helpful, but it’s crucial that parents keep the lines of discussion open with teens so that they know that there is no such thing as a “safe” dose of fentanyl and that taking any unknown substance, even colorful pills, could pose a threat to their life.
What it is: Researchers at Rutgers University have compiled a report on how members of the online communities promoting self harm find each other and interact on Twitter. The report contains some images that are disturbing and graphic.
Why it’s important to know about: Over the past year, Twitter posts that mention #shtwt (a hashtag that indicates self-harm Twitter) are up 500%, according to the Rutgers’ findings. A set of slang terms unique to the #shtwt community is also reported: “catscratch” refers to superficial injuries on the top layer of skin, “armgills” refers to cutting your arms in a gill-like pattern, and “moots” refer to mutual friends who engage in self-harm. According to the report, coded language “includes labels for layers of skin, types of injuries, and patterns of resulting blood.” There are also groups online who communicate primarily to discourage self-harm and to encourage each other toward healing, but algorithm-generated Twitter feeds can confuse the two and send people in recovery right to a cache of highly triggering content.
3. The Wrong Prescription
What it is: The New York Times reports on teens who are being prescribed multiple prescription drugs for mental health conditions.
Why it’s become so common: Writer Matt Richtel tells the story of a young woman on Long Island who was experiencing depression and was prescribed powerful drugs in an effort to treat it. Over the next several years, she went to several mental health professionals, all of whom tweaked and added to her prescription drug regimen. Practitioners are growing concerned that this practice could be harming young people more than it helps them. A doctor interviewed for the piece says, “When they’re searching for something that makes the patient symptom-free, they create problems that can result in what is politely called pharmaceutical misadventure.” The problem is, “symptom-free” is hard, if not impossible, to measure when you’re talking about mental health symptoms. Seeking help for depression and anxiety is a good thing, overall, but in order to avoid this medication cascade, it’s important to have a destination in mind in terms of managing symptoms.
Song of the Week
“GOD DID” by DJ Khaled, ft. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend & Friday: this sprawling, 8-minute long song is the eponymous track from DJ Khaled’s new album GOD DID. The chorus includes the line, “They didn’t believe in us—but I know God did,” and seems to conflate material success with God’s blessing and approval. Fans are excited about Jay-Z’s 4-minute long verse, in which he details his past life as a drug dealer, analyzes the current state of his career, and compares himself to God. The song has been given an explicit rating for profanity. For lyrics click here; for a lyric video, click here.
Onlookers might think that someone who self-harms is primarily trying to damage their body—and obviously, self-harm is damaging in that way. But often, those who hurt themselves physically aren’t trying to die—they’re looking for a way to ventilate their internal, emotional pain with external, physical pain. This emotional pain can come from a wide variety of things, including abandonment trauma, abuse, addiction, or other issues. Self-harm is one of the multiple unhealthy coping mechanisms a person might turn to in order to deal with the pain of being alive.
Researchers at Rutgers University found that there are online communities that take this unhealthy coping mechanism and turn it into a criterion for acceptance. As their report notes, people in these communities praise, celebrate, and encourage this self-harming behavior. What is already a dangerous dynamic can then be mixed with a desire to perform well for peers. This can be hard to wrap our heads around from an outside perspective. It is, however, a prime example of how important young people feel it is to find and maintain a sense of belonging. The #shtwt community represents an extreme manifestation and distortion of that core desire.
In Isaiah 53:5, the prophet says about Jesus, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” In other words, our healing comes from His wounds—not from our own. Whatever failures we’re wrestling with, whatever guilt or emotional pain or childhood trauma we may be dealing with, Jesus came to create a path for us to find hope and healing—and a community in which we can live that out.
For help navigating these issues, check out our Parent’s Guide to Suicide & Self-Harm Prevention, this video from Jerusha Clark on self-harm, and our friends at Mercy Multiplied. As always, here are some questions to help get the conversation going:
- Why do you think someone would practice self-harm?
- Do you know anyone who has hurt themselves, either through cutting or something else?
- When you’re feeling emotional pain, how do you deal with it?