YouTubers beware. Teal Swan is a New Age spiritual guru who has been accused of inspiring a former student to commit suicide.
According to this article on Vice News, Swan is a guru who “claims to have super-sensory powers, to be able to see what’s happening inside people’s bodies, and to help people recover repressed memories of childhood trauma.” She has hundreds of videos on various topics and about 500,000 subscribers on YouTube.
Swan says she is not a cult leader. However, Vice News says, her massive social media following and her controversial methods in dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts, which include “sometimes encouraging students to imagine their own deaths in detail,” has earned her the cult label.
Some videos specifically suggest that “suicide is a reset button, feels like a relief, and that suicidal thoughts are a valid reaction to bad situations.”
According to a study mentioned in the article, that thinking can be dangerous, because even mentioning suicide methods in the media has been shown to increase “the chances of subsequent suicides.”
Cult researcher and California State University professor Janja Lalich said in the article that this type of dramatic therapy is how vulnerable people can be manipulated.
More specifically, she said, “They can get very unstable, and that’s what she’s counting on. Cult leaders will always get their people to what I call ‘reframe their lives.’ They reinterpret their lives, so they see everything from before the cult as messed up, and only by staying with the cult leader will they get straightened out.”
Swan’s followers have said that they were lost before finding her, and she said that she found them “using basic SEO” and “Google tags” so that when people are searching for videos to help them with their suicidal thoughts they find her among the options.
Furthermore, Swan has a “retreat centre” in Costa Rica where students must pay up to $2,000 to work with her.
Technically, Swan has not done anything illegal. However, that does not make her less dangerous to those struggling with depression. To quote the Bible, please guard your hearts.