AFSP on suicide coverage in the media

newspapersI found something from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on media coverage of suicide:

“Research has shown that graphic, sensationalized or romanticized descriptions of suicide deaths in the news media can contribute to suicide contagion, popularly referred to as “copycat” suicides.

Responsible coverage of suicide, in contrast, can educate wide audiences about the likely causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in suicide rates, recent treatment advances and other ways suicide can be prevented.”

I’ve noticed, however, that other countries don’t mind reporting on the suicides of ordinary citizens. For example, India’s media coverage of suicides has uncovered a sad trend of farmer suicides – farmers who commit suicide because of unyielding crops, financial debt, and repossession of their land. If the Indian media did not report on the pattern of these suicides, it might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Australian media has discovered an unnerving trend of high suicide rates among teenagers and older adolescent girls (age 16 and up).

The AFSP highlights the main reason why U.S. media does not normally report on the suicides of ordinary citizens. On a daily basis, far too many suicides are committed, especially by teenagers. The possibility of copycat suicides performed by teenagers can dramatically increase once a story is reported. Teenagers who teeter on the brink of suicide can finalize a plan and launch it into action. The media prefers to report on murder-suicides, which are less frequent, less common, and less likely to launch copycat attempts.

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