"LEAVING my mum with her [boyfriend] for the weekend,” the caption on a teenager’s TikTok video reads.

“He murders her.”

That shocking line appears to music that gives the tone of a jest, but there is no lie about the death of that loved one. Instead, this is a shocking new trend on the social media platform.

With all the debate surrounding TikTok’s use of user data, it would be easy to forget about what you’ll find on the app itself.

Recently, TikTok has been banned on government devices over privacy concerns in the parliaments of the UK, US, Australia and here in Scotland.

TikTok is an app for mobile devices on which people can film, edit and post short videos, with many being set to either music or audio clips from movies and TV shows.

It is home to thousands of trends and video formats but one that has grown in popularity recently is the “once there was a way” trend in which people – mostly members of Gen Z – make fun of the deaths at their loved ones, or at other sources of trauma, to an angelic song from Jennifer Hudson called Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight.

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One such video sees a teenage girl joke about her friend taking their own life in front of her.

While some videos in this trend are fake and posted satirically, many discuss real events from people’s pasts that have left deep scars.

TikTok trends are usually separated by the sound they use. However, this format of video has been used on a number of sounds for a long time and Hudson’s song is just the latest focus of it.

Humour has long been regarded as an effective coping mechanism 

A 2017 study in Brazil found that it improves communication, reduces stress and anxiety, relieves tension and improves recovery in medical patients.

It can be used to change a person’s view of their trauma from terrifying and serious to lighthearted, and with the connectivity provided by apps such as TikTok, Gen Z can achieve a feeling that they are not alone in their problems. Others have shared their confusion at the idea of people stepping on the memory of their loved ones for a cheap punchline.

Dr Liza Morton, counselling psychologist and lecturer in applied psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, agreed there are benefits to using humour to cope but warned that it doesn’t always work.

She said: “Social media is increasingly being used to promote mental health and wellbeing which has been good for tackling stigma.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a growing trend of ‘mental health influencers’ which has helped to open the conversation up, ‘normalise’ distress and help people feel less alone.

“However, without any professional training, there are also concerns about the spread of misinformation and that this movement can encourage personal over-disclosure in a public forum, often in a context of poor governance of risk and without access to a Health and Care Professions Council registered psychologist.

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“For a small proportion of people, exposure to a traumatic life event can have a devastating impact on mental health. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following exposure to a traumatic situation.”

Morton goes in depth on this in her book Healing Hearts And Minds: A Holistic Approach To Coping Well With Congenital Heart Disease.

She added: “The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks which are often triggered by reminders of the traumatic event and result in the person re-experiencing the trauma.

“While ‘dark’ humour can be a coping strategy for dealing with adversity, my concern is that for some this kind of content could be re-triggering, often at a time when they are alone. It is important that people are aware of their own limits, feel able to switch off when needed and take care of themselves seeking help if required.”

Gen Z has been brought up in difficult times

With the world becoming more interconnected than ever, they are exposed to all the horrors of the globe in their formative years.

They are the generation that has grown up with the most acute awareness of climate change, many were educated through a pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen for centuries, and the world’s geopolitical situation is as unsettled as ever.

This means they have become more desensitised to horrific events, to the point where joking about their trauma in memes or TikToks can feel natural to them.

Morton continued: “It sounds possible that anyone posting this content may be seeking help. Given the lack of risk management on social media, this is concerning, because it is unlikely they are going to get appropriate support in response. Further, others who come across these posts, who have experienced similar, may be triggered.”

The Gen Z stereotype includes embracing the nihilistic culture of laughing in the face of difficult times which they see as normal. But for older generations, it can be concerning to see their children and grandchildren acting like this online.

TikTok has millions of users, and videos on the platform often see thousands of views more than on competitor YouTube due to their snappy nature.

As Morton makes clear, seeing the intimate details of someone’s life struggles and trauma can risk re-triggering PTSD – so, for all the light-hearted, amusing videos on the platform, taking extra care is well warranted.

Samaritans can be contacted on their free helpline anytime on 116 123