*This article includes discussion of teen suicide.
On Monday, an anonymous sixteen-year-old girl of Batu Kawah, Sarawak, Malaysia approached her Instagram family with a one-question poll:
“Really important, help me choose: D/L.”
She jumped from the top of a building a matter of hours later.
At the time of her death, 69% of users were reported to have selected “D” (Death) over “L” (Life). Instagram, however, insists that 89% of users had selected “L” by the poll’s 24-hour mark.
However the totals may have risen and fallen, the sixteen-year-old’s fate was the same.
Her swift suicide incited a conversation around the role of social media and fellow “netizens” in our decisions, how to cater to mental health needs and how to improve awareness of these needs.
Occurring during May, Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, the situation is unfortunately timely.
Ramkarpal Singh, Chairman of the National Legal Bureau and Democratic Action Party of Malaysia, took to Facebook on Tuesday to express his condolences for the teen and her family and to also incite a call-to-action surrounding the incident.
Not only should this specific matter be dealt with, he argued, but it should also give cause to reflect on the role of social media in our lives, what resources we’re currently offering to those who struggle with their mental health, and what we are doing to educate others in the importance of mental health and the surrounding stigma.
“Although it is still too early to determine what exactly happened, it is possible that the girl was suffering from depression and contemplated suicide as a result.”
This is an important distinction to make, as an individual who suffers from current mental health problems is more easily influenced in the direction of self-harm and suicide.
Singh began the conversation surrounding mental health concerns by posing multiple questions:
“How some netizens could have actually condoned this is beyond me.”
“Various questions arise from this unfortunate incident.”
“Would the girl still be alive today if the majority of netizens on her Instagram account discouraged her from taking her own life?”
“Would she have heeded the advice of netizens to seek professional help had they done so?”
“Did the encouragement of those netizens actually influence her decision to take her own life?”
Singh’s questions force us not only to think about the realities of losing one of our teens to depression and suicide, but also the influences of social media and social stigma that we need to work toward improving.
In closing his statement, Singh said:
“It is important that incidents such as this do not repeat themselves in the future and the matter must be thoroughly investigated as such, and not treated as an isolated case.”
The Chairman couldn’t be more correct in stating this is hardly an isolated incident, with teenage suicide and reported issues of suicidal ideation and other mental health problems on the rise every year.
The most recent development surrounding this story is that of the potential punishment of the Instagram followers who voted “D” in the teen’s poll that preceded her suicide.
According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), these followers may be cited under Section 305 of the MCMC Penal Code, which states:
“It is wrong to incite someone aged below eighteen to commit suicide.”
If the followers are cited under this Code, they may receive up to twenty years of jail time and a fine.
Whether or not the followers receive such a punishment, it is important that the conversation surrounding mental illness continues. The resources available for those struggling are not advertised enough, and how we educate society on the subjects of mental wellness, self-care, resources, and social stigma are far from perfect.
Only with continuing this conversation might we hope to have fewer instances of teen suicide to report.
If you or someone you know needs help, resources are available online and by phone.
In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at:
LGBTQ+ young people can call the Trevor Project at:
Transgender individuals can get help from the Trans Lifeline: