Reduce suicide contagion through communications media by providing editors with guidelines for reporting youth suicide and suicide prevention resource information.
Editors in all communications media, including newspapers, radio, and television.
RATIONALE AND EFFICACY
There is persuasive evidence that outbreaks of suicide -i.e., "suicide contagion"- occurs, and adolescents and young adults are particularly vulnerable.26 Studies show that mass media coverage of the suicide of a youth can influence others to engage in suicidal behavior. 27, 28 The more networks carry a story about suicide, the greater the increase in suicides thereafter.27
The manner of reporting a suicide may increase or decrease the possibility of contagion. Media guidelines recommend that excessive reporting of suicide, how-to descriptions, glorification of persons who commit suicide, and simplistic explanations be avoided.29 When suicide is reported, prevention information and community resources should also be provided.
Media approaches to reporting suicide can increase or decrease the possibility of additional suicidal behavior in a community.
On an issue as sensitive as youth suicide, it is important that communities work with the media to achieve a balance between the mission of the news media and the need for responsible coverage.
Media guidelines should be regularly updated, repeated, and reinforced to reflect new developments in suicide reporting and to ensure that both new and experienced editors stay informed.
SAMPLE IMPLEMENTATION ACTIVITIES
- Collaborate with media representatives in developing youth suicide reporting guidelines using the media guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as a model.29
- Resource for media professionals and community organizers: Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media (pdf) (35K) from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Association of Suicidology, and Annenberg Public Policy Center.
- Provide guidelines to local media personnel in a position to report youth suicide.
- Provide the guidelines to key partners in youth suicide prevention,such as mental health professionals, community leaders, survivors, and gatekeepers.
- Present/distribute guidelines at media association meetings.
- Identify someone to collect and analyze local news articles, television/radio news coverage, and other media on how youth suicide is reported and whether reports include crisis lines and other local/state/ national resources for help.
Gould M, Wallenstein S, Kleinman MH,et al. Suicide clusters: An examination of age-specific effects. American Journal of Public Health 1990; 80:211-212. 27
Phillips D, Carstensen L. Clustering of teenage suicides after television news stories about suicide. New England Journal of Medicine 1986; 315:685-689. 28
Schmidtke A, Hafner H. The Werther effect after television films: New evidence for an old hypothesis. Psychological Medicine, 1988; 18:665-676. 29
O?Carroll P, Potter L. Suicide contagion and the reporting of suicide: recommendations from a national workshop. MMWR. 1994. 43(RR-6):9-18.Back to Top