The Negative Effect of Suicide Reporting in the Media

Suicide is a very delicate  subject in every respect and reporting suicide deaths and numbers in the media has over the years backfired, and as such, guidelines have been given created in order to help media organsiations in do this responsibly [1].

Much research has been conducted in Austria [2] and the research goes back to an original work by the authoir Goethe’s book “The Sorrow’s of Young Werther” 1774 [3].

The WHO published guidelines in 2001 determining exactly what to avoid when reporting about a suicide in the media. This includes precise details on the suicide method, personal information on the person having committed suicide or some expressions such as “self-inflicted death“. [4] Instead, if a report focuses on resource-oriented aspects, this may possibly even lead to a reduction of the suicide rate6. This is then called the “Papageno effect“, which was first empirically confirmed in 2010 by an Austrian work group headed by Thomas Niederkrotenthaler. [5]

Not as much is known about how suicidal content works online other than it carries the same risks and positive effects. Positives include the possibility that preventive help offers can reach a huge number of users within a very short term of time, are already known but the preventive potential of social media is still not used sufficiently at present. Risks are that it is difficult to ensure a constant supervision in the internet which is necessary to be able to guarantee a preventive benefit.

Online resources in social media have great potential benefit in helping to remove the stigm of suicide and poor mental health in an effort to reduce the danger of follow-up suicides.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

The Icarus team

References:

  1. https://iasp.info/suicide_and_the_media.php
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18082110
  3. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/the-werther-effect/42915/
  4. https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/resource_media.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20807970

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