Media Coverage of Suicide: Comparative Analysis



Media coverage of suicide is problematic because it is an emotional issue, involving loss of human life. Reports of suicides can intrude on individuals’ privacy and contribute to the sense of trauma, shock, and horror shared by the individual’s loved ones. It might also be contagious, negatively affecting the shaky state of mind of people in emotional crisis. A study conducted in Great Britain and the United States showed that suicide rates increased after a suicide story was published: the more publicity the story received, the greater the increase.1 Another study found that suicide rate increased after a television suicide story and that the increase in suicides lasted for about ten days after the report.2 In contrast, Phillips argued that the most effective channel of cultural contagion is newspapers. This is so because an individual can spend a great deal of time reading and rereading a newspaper story; consequently he or she can remain longer in contact with the contagious influence of the story and might be more readily affected by it.3 The most susceptible is the teenage population. Sociologists who conducted independent studies of suicide patterns found significant copycat correlations. Reports of teenage suicide appear to lead to outbreaks of other teenage suicides.4


Public Interest Suicide Rate Medium Coverage Public Figure Assisted Suicide 
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© Raphael Cohen-Almagor 2001

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