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Posts Tagged / Suicide

  • May 30 / 2017
  • 0
Current Affairs, Katerina Kavalidou

On 13 Reasons Why: Acknowledging those working in suicide prevention

Photo by Elisa Riva. © 2017 Pixabay. Used with permission under the license of Creative Commons. Via Startup Stock Photos.

By Katerina Kavalidou 

No matter what you are going through, there is help out there; suicide is not the solution”

The above is an important message from Professor Rory O’Connor, an expert on suicide research and prevention, regarding the recent airing of 13 Reasons Why, a TV series about a teenage girl’s suicide. Reading this, I started thinking about one particular group of people working on suicide prevention: those who pick up the calls at suicide helplines. Continue Reading

  • Oct 05 / 2016
  • 1
Current Affairs, Tiago Zortea

Suicide prevention at the individual level: The role of empathy in saving lives

Photo by Korney Violin. © Dec 2015. Used with permission under the license of Creative Commons. Via Unsplash.

Photo by Korney Violin. © Dec 2015. Used with permission under the license of Creative Commons. Via Unsplash.

By Tiago Zortea

 

Every year, the 10th of September marks world suicide prevention day, with thousands of people across the globe calling for action to reduce deaths by suicide and save lives [1]. Suicide prevention strategies can be implemented at several different levels with interventions including: (i) restricting individuals’ access to the means of suicide, (ii) promoting responsible media coverage of suicide, (iii) improving mental health care systems and training health professionals, and finally (iv) ensuring societal support for the implementation of these interventions. Continue Reading

  • Jan 06 / 2016
  • 3
Methods, Tiago Zortea

Is it dangerous to ask or talk about suicide?

Photo by Charlie Foster ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

By Tiago Zortea

This is an understandable concern. Suicide is a delicate issue since it involves suffering, emotional pain, and sometimes stigma for those who have lost loved ones through suicide or feel suicidal themselves [1]. In addition, there is a well-known phenomenon called the Werther effect” (or copycat suicide) where a person bases a suicide attempt on another suicide they have heard about (e.g., in the media). When it comes to asking someone whether they have suicidal thoughts, people might feel particularly reticent due to a concern that they will become responsible for that person if the answer is “yes”. These sorts of concerns can discourage people from talking and asking about suicide, and reinforce the idea that these conversations might, in themselves, increase the risk of inducing suicidal ideation and behaviour, especially if the conversation is with someone who is already depressed or psychologically distressed. Continue Reading

  • Nov 11 / 2015
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Current Affairs, Tiago Zortea

Eleanor Rigby, Loneliness, and Suicide

Photo by Joshua Earle ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

By Tiago Zortea:

“Ah look at all the lonely people!
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”

The thought provoking, sad, and very reflective Beatles’ song, Eleanor Rigby shocked me when I listened to it for the first time many years ago. For a teenager who was starting to understand how life works and how to navigate relationships, I found the song extremely thought provoking. Who wants to be lonely? Who wishes to have no bonds? Though the music expert Richie Unterberger suggests that Eleanor Rigby focuses on “the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly”, the song tells us about a human experience that can be devastating regardless of age: the constant feeling of being lonely. Continue Reading

  • May 06 / 2015
  • 0
Current Affairs

IHAWKES election special part III: Professor Rory O’Connor

Have the major Scottish political parties prioritised mental health in their manifestos?

Although nearly half of all ill-health among people under 65 years of age is attributable to mental ill-health, it is estimated that only about a quarter of those with mental health problems are in treatment (Centre for Economic Performance, 2012).   In addition, a recent analysis has revealed the historic and chronic under-funding of mental health research in the UK (MQ Research, 2015). Add to this the rising rates of suicide in the UK; there are approximately 6,000 deaths each year, with more than three quarters of all suicide deaths accounted for by men (ONS, 2015). The personal costs of suicide are devastatingly clear but many people do not know that the economic burden of suicide is also vast. Continue Reading

  • Jun 03 / 2014
  • 1
Current Research, Olivia Kirtley

Sensitivity and Sensationalism: Media Reporting of Suicide and the Science of Why it Matters.

By Olivia Kirtley:

I am currently the IHAWKES roving reporter at Columbia University, New York City.  Just one of the many intriguing pieces of research to come out of Columbia Psychiatry recently, is a Lancet Psychiatry article by Professor Madelyn Gould and other colleagues from Dartmouth College and Tufts University, looking at how the reporting of suicide in newspapers may be involved in teenage suicide clusters.  Point clusters of suicides are when a higher than expected number of suicides occur within a shorter than average time period, e.g. a week or a year; and/or in a similar space, such as within an individual school, or town (Mesoudi, 2009).

Gould et al’s study looked at all suicide clusters that occurred in 13-20 year olds in the US, from 1988-1996, and matched them to other non-clustered suicides.  The researchers then examined newspapers that were published after the index cluster or non-cluster suicide from each area where suicides occurred, and searched for stories relating to suicide, e.g. a headline including “suicide” or another word/phrase suggesting a person had taken their own life.

Findings show that in areas where cluster suicides occurred, there were significantly more news stories published about suicide than in areas where the index suicide was not followed by another death.  These news stories were also more likely to be front-page news, give more details about the individual and the method of suicide and also to use sensationalist headlines containing the word suicide or the method used.  Crucially, subsequent suicide deaths were specifically associated with stories about suicidal individuals rather than with general stories that included suicide related content.  Whilst the findings from this study do not demonstrate that overly explicit and detailed news reporting about individuals who die by suicide causes subsequent suicides, it does show an association.  The authors urge caution, however, as suicide is complex and usually involves many different factors, of which exposure to news stories may only be one.

Indeed, not all suicides are reported in the media.  What is it about one suicide relative to another that makes it newsworthy? Another recent study by Machlin, Pirkis and Spittal (2013) from the University of Melbourne, investigated the characteristics of suicides that were reported in the press and whether or not these suicides had specific features which may have made them more likely to hit the headlines.  They looked at data on suicides collected by the National Coroners Information System and also radio, TV and newspaper reports that included the word suicide which occurred from 2006-2007.  Suicides reported in the media were significantly more likely to be those of younger people (29 years or younger), to involve violent methods (e.g.,firearms) or to occur in an institutional setting (e.g., a hospital).  In addition to potentially leading to copycat suicides, sensationalist reporting of suicides in the media can also affect how the public understands suicide, maybe leading to the idea that particular groups of people are the only ones at risk of suicide.

This research highlights the critical importance of sensitively reporting suicide in the media and the crucial role the media has to play in suicide prevention.  There are both national and international guidelines for media reporting of suicide, including from from the Samaritans in the UK and the International Association for Suicide Prevention and World Health Organization internationally.  The guidelines advise against giving detailed descriptions of the method that a person has used to kill themselves or the location of the death, as this could provide a “how to guide” for someone who is vulnerable and considering ending their life.  The media guidelines for suicide reporting are supported by a wealth of scientific evidence and are intended not as bureaucratic red tape or media censorship, but quite simply, to save lives.

References:

Gould, M. S., Kleinman, M. H., Lake, A. M., Forman, J., & Bassett Midle, J. (2014). Newspaper coverage of suicide and initiation of suicide clusters in teenagers in the USA, 1988—96: a retrospective, population-based, case-control study. Lancet Psychiatry. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)70225-1

International Association of Suicide Prevention & World Health Organization.  (2008). Preventing Suicide: A Guide for Media Professionals.  Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/resource_media.pdf

Machlin, A., Pirkis, J., & Spittal, M. J. (2013). Which Suicides Are Reported in the Media – and What Makes Them “Newsworthy”? Crisis, 34(5), 305–313. doi:10.1027/0227-5910/a000177

Mesoudi, A. (2009). The Cultural Dynamics of Copycat Suicide. PLoS ONE, 4(9), e7252. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007252

Samaritans. (2014). Media Guidelines for the Reporting of Suicide.  Retrieved from http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines-reporting-suicide