Media and suicide prevention: what’s going on?

It is know that media play a key role in suicide prevention, we talked about this in many previous posts (Thirteen reasons why: new episodes, debate still ongoing; Robin Williams’ death and copycat suicidesTV Series & Suicide: The End Of The F****ing World & 13 Reasons WhyEchoes of the TV series “13 reasons why” release: an ongoing scientific debate.).

Many recent articles have been published about this topic in the recent scientific literature . 

In “Media depictions of possible suicide contagion among celebrities: A cause for concern and potential opportunities for prevention” (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0004867419846390?rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&journalCode=anpa) it is explained the concept of copycat suicide and Werther effect: celebrities suicide, but also TV series or movies about suicide, can raise awareness about the topic. Generally, celebrities’ suicides are particularly likely to be associated with increased suicide rates. The article “Increases in Demand for Crisis and Other Suicide Prevention Services After a Celebrity Suicide” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31035892) , published on Psychiatric Services in August, examines data on acute (i.e., within 30 days) increases in suicides, help and information seeking, and service capacity after a celebrity suicide (Robin Williams’ death on August 11, 2014). In conclusion, “Dramatic increases in all three measured outcomes in the days after a celebrity suicide were noted, suggesting the need for contingency plans to meet immediate increased demand”.

An important debate took place in the scientific community following the release of the show

Thirteen Reasons Why, a Netflix Drama dealing with Anna Baker’s suicide. The article “13 Reasons Why Not: A Methodological and Meta‐Analytic Review of Evidence Regarding Suicide Contagion by Fictional Media” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30318609) analyzes the possible effect of the serie on the population: the study results “suggest that current data do not support the theory that suicide contagion by fictional media occurs”, anyway “it is recommended that individuals exercise caution in public statements linking suicide‐themed fictional media to suicide contagion as data may not be able to support such claims”. 


Sources:

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