SUICIDE AND MEDIA

Copycat or Imitative suicides
Over 50 investigations into similar imitative suicides have been conducted in the past. Systematic reviews of these studies have consistently drawn the same conclusion: media reporting of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviors.
These reviews have also observed that imitation is more evident under some circumstances than others, especially when people are already suffering from depressive and other psychiatric illness. It varies as a function of time, peaking within the first three days and leveling off by about two weeks, but sometimes lasting longer. It is related to the amount and prominence of coverage, with repeated coverage and ‘high impact’ stories being most strongly associated with imitative behaviors. It is accentuated when the person described in the story and the reader or viewer is similar in some way. Particular subgroups in the population (e.g., young people, people suffering from depressive illness) may be especially vulnerable to engaging in imitative suicidal behaviors.
Finally, and probably most importantly, overt description of suicide by a particular method may lead to increases in suicidal behavior employing that method.

MEDIA AND SUICIDE

Suicide is a a major PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM and not a solution for problems. But majority of the media depict suicide as a solution. " XYZ committed suicide because he was suffering from financial problems" as if suicide is the solution for financial problems. Research has indicated that for many people the media is their primary source of information about Suicide, Depressive and mental illness. According to national and international research, Suicide, Depressive and mental illness tends to be portrayed negatively in the mass media. Examples of inappropriate reporting can be seen regularly in the print and electronic media.
Hence media can play an very important role in creating awareness about suicide and suicide prevention with the authentic, scientific and latest medical knowledge.
Negative reporting of Suicide, Depressive and other mental illness appears to influence community attitudes, which in turn may lead to stigma and discrimination. Instances of negative reporting impact significantly on people experiencing Depressive and mental illness and may reduce appropriate help-seeking behavior, resulting in untreated illness and possibly contributing to suicidal thinking and behavior.
People still don't accept that psychological or mental illness is just like any other illness. There is still a stereotypical stigma attached to it that is negatively reinforced every time there is bad reporting.
Quick reference for media professionals

  • Take the opportunity to educate the public about suicide
  • Avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide
  • Avoid language that presents suicide as a solution to problems
  • Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide
  • Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide
  • Avoid providing detailed information about the site of a completed or attempted suicide
  • Word headlines carefully
  • Exercise caution in using photographs or video footage
  • Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides
  • Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide
  • Provide information about where to seek help
  • Recognize that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories about suicide.