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The Media and Suicide

Abstract

Objective

The authors aim to inform readers of the theory that when newspapers, film, and television describe suicidal deaths, additional suicides may result by virtue of contagion or copy-cat effects; to review data that support and refute this theory; to present some promising and recommended ways to prevent copy-cat suicide; and to cite news-media examples of both particularly bad and good reporting.

Methods

A review of the literature on media-related suicide was conducted, which included reviewing materials published in scientific journals and data published by the U.S. Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, and materials from private, not-for-profit agencies.

Results

Data support an increased number of suicides resulting from media accounts of suicide that romanticize or dramatize the description of suicidal deaths. Specific guidelines for the media that may be able to decrease these additional deaths have been devised.

Conclusion

Psychiatrists should be familiar with the harm that may result from improper reporting of suicide in the media since they may be called upon by reporters or family members following the suicide of one of their patients or following the suicide of a newsworthy person. Following the media guidelines available may prevent such contagion effects from occurring.

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Correspondence to Howard S. Sudak M.D..

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Sudak, H.S., Sudak, D.M. The Media and Suicide. Acad Psychiatry 29, 495–499 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ap.29.5.495

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Keywords

  • Suicide Rate
  • Academic Psychiatry
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Contagion Effect
  • Suicidal Death