Suicide and the Media | Teen Ink

Suicide and the Media

June 18, 2008
By chelseablues BRONZE, Ardsley, New York
chelseablues BRONZE, Ardsley, New York
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Sensitivity must be used when the media reports on teen suicides. Sounds obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. And when it doesn’t, you often find copycat attempts in the wake of a teen suicide. How does it happen? Impulsive teenagers are more prone to suicide. Studies have shown that this, combined with a glamorized ­account of the details and the nature of the suicide – the method used, and other titillating information – can cause a spike in teen suicide in the local area. And, when a famous person commits suicide, teen suicide rises on a national level.

Teens often romanticize adventure and living on the edge. According to Pamela Cantor, president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Youth Suicide, this can be a deadly combination when faced with a suicide. Cantor says, “Kids see that this is a glamorous way to die, a way to get a lot of attention that they couldn’t get in life.” In an interview, Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect, said, “When the media comes in and does a graphic depiction of it – it doesn’t work to scare kids away.” He notes that teens even create a fantasy of what their funeral will look like. They imagine flying over their funeral and seeing how much they are missed.

In 2005, one young person in the United States committed suicide every two hours. That’s approximately 4,500 teen suicides! Of those, 100 to 200 teens died in clusters. In many cases, the additional victims were friends of the teen or identified strongly with something about his story reported in the news.

In Plano, Texas, where one of the first reported clusters occurred 25 years ago, a teen’s suicide was tragically followed by eight more teen deaths, mostly using the same method. Similarly, when a popular teenager in Bergenfield, New Jersey, ended his life in 1987, several of his friends killed themselves six months later. This was followed by two additional suicide attempts using a similar method. And, when the cluster was studied more carefully, an additional four teen deaths were linked to this first suicide.

Copycat and cluster suicides are played out on a national level when a famous person commits suicide. Media coverage of the event is nonstop, which often leads to more tragedy. For example, according to the New York Magazine article “A Dying Trend,” when Marilyn Monroe took her life in August 1962, the suicide rate in the following month rose by 12 percent, which was an additional 197 suicides.

This phenomenon is not limited to the United States. In 1986 in Tokyo, Japan, 18-year-old Okada Yukiko, a popular Japanese singer, took her life. Her widely reported death resulted in a staggering 31 teen suicides in the following two weeks, a phenomenon that the mass media in Japan called “the Yukko syndrome.”

So what can be done? Research has shown that the way the media handles the reporting of suicides can be critical in reducing copycats and clusters. A study was conducted in Vienna. Between 1984 and 1987, there were a large number of suicides by people who jumped in front of trains. The media coverage was overly dramatic and graphic. A campaign urging the media to change its coverage of these tragedies ­resulted in an 80 percent decrease in incidents of this type of suicide.

According to the Suicide and Mental Health ­Association International’s report on Suicide Contagion, the media should not sensationalize the event or glamorize the victim or act. Describing the method used should also be kept to a minimum. Another ­important step the media can take is to ­focus on the mental health aspects of the suicide. Just saying that the victim was “stressed” or “under pressure” makes it too easy for other teenagers to identify with the victim. Those who commit suicide often have long-standing mental health issues that are often ignored in the media coverage, which is a huge mistake.

Teenagers need to see that they are not “just like” the teen who committed suicide. Suicide is caused by many factors; it is not acceptable for the media to be one of them.

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This article has 224 comments.

Kennedi said...
on Sep. 5 2010 at 4:24 pm
Kennedi, Gilbert, Arizona
0 articles 1 photo 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Practice Makes Perfect.
If you think you can or you think you can't you're right.

Thanks for that.. I felt the same way after I did that....

on Sep. 2 2010 at 1:51 pm
87291082bz993842, Millstone Twp, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 15 comments

ur awsome

Some people have a physical disease that sets them in that suicidal frame of mind. It doesn't have to do with their life. They can have everything in the world, but still be captured by dangerous thoughts.

"the world isn't  good enough for me." isn't how people think. Its "I am not good enough for the world." Thats when they end their life.

Think about it.

_Bell_ said...
on Aug. 23 2010 at 3:36 pm
_Bell_, Ukiah, California
0 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:

"Those who commit suicide often have long-standing mental health issues..." I think those who commit suicide really do have a mental health issue, its just not normal. when things get rough in life we just have to be smart enough to know how to make the best out of the situation and move on with life.From things i'v heard about i think more than half teen suicides come from people useing hard drugs that affect their brain to were they have mental issues.

on Jul. 24 2010 at 11:42 pm
Jellybean9898 PLATINUM, Glendale, California
34 articles 0 photos 42 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When nothing goes right, go left"-Anonymous
"Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste to the sky as well as the Earth"-Henry David Thoreau

this is very strongly written, it really opens the eyes up to what is happening out there.  i believe life is a precious gift, and we underestimate it so much.  it's a gift, why do you want to give it back?  There are other ways to get attention, but it goes back to taking life for granted.  kids and teens get sucked into smoking and drugs when they know it's bad, but they're wasting the precious time they have.  There are kids who can't even make the choice.  There are people who are challenged mentally, there are people who are gravely ill.  i'll bet they wished they could have a better life.  but they can't.  you can't waste life.  you can use it.  you can do better things.  suicide is not the answer.  it never was.  it never WILL be.

on Jul. 24 2010 at 4:44 pm
AelitaReloaded PLATINUM, Scottsdale, Arizona
22 articles 0 photos 179 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The pen is mightier than the sword" author unknown (to me)

That is never the right answer.

branhambaby said...
on Jul. 16 2010 at 11:08 pm
Its probably never because the world isnt good enough for them, but that they arent good enough for the world.  its not selfish to themselves, but it does effect the people around them, and eventually when eople learn why someone did it, if they do, they might feel like they were in a better place. theres usually signs to prevent it, people just never care enough until after its happened to try and make a difference, but by then its to late.

on Jul. 16 2010 at 10:26 am
BungalowBillPhotography, Juno, Alaska
0 articles 0 photos 144 comments

Favorite Quote:

this is very well written, with a nice balance of statistics and facts. I love how you did not just repeat everything we learn in school about suidcide, but included the medias role. thank you  

_SoftSpot_ said...
on Jun. 10 2010 at 8:51 pm
What? Goodness, no. I'm not saying that people don't see it as a good way to go, but are you trying to say that's the only reason? What about for people who just can't seem to live on anymore? I've considered it almost every day for a few months when my boyfriend died because I couldn't bear the thought of living on without him.

on Jun. 10 2010 at 4:59 pm
Eilina Sealtman SILVER, London, Other
7 articles 0 photos 15 comments
The one problem I have with this article is that it doesn't point out what can be done to stop this phenomenon. It's a great article, and I'm rating it 5/5, but people need to consider the issues raised by it and how to solve them. I don't think many people realise the blinding gap people leave behind. It's often people who are lonely who begin to think of suicide, or those who find life boring, so maybe more should be done in local communities to inlucde youths of all backgrounds such as varied sports or leisure activities?

reesha SILVER said...
on Jun. 10 2010 at 10:08 am
reesha SILVER, Rawalpindi, Other
6 articles 15 photos 124 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."
Walt Disney

"Hakuna Matata!"
Lion King

"The British policy was 'unite and conquer'. But I say 'unite and conquer'."
Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea)

I know what you mean!! Most of my friends have contemplated suicide because they were sick of their life and wanted to end it. They wouldn't have thought about it if the media didn't highlight it as a new fad. Nice job on the article!

MonnieCuh said...
on Jun. 10 2010 at 9:46 am
MonnieCuh, Estero, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Suicide is somehting not to take lightly. You can never understand why someone would want to hurt themselves or try to kill themselves unless you put yourself into their shoes.

Even if it is a stupid. My best friend wanted to kill herself because a lot of reasons one being that her boyfriend was an a** and he was extremely upset that she was cutting herself (she cut because of reasons involving unwanted sexual activities which is extremely tragic for a 15 year old to go through).

So he said that he was going to kill himself cause he's a moron. Yeahhh.

on May. 26 2010 at 10:10 am
Bellz6406 BRONZE, San Antonio, Texas
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
My Precious, Precious child. I love you and would never leave you. During your time of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.

actually, having struggled with these thoughts before, it isn't selfish to the person. when i was going to do it, i was trying not to be selfish. making people deal with me and all my problems.. i thought that was too much for anyone to have to do. if i just took myself out of the picture, i wouldn't be such a burden. staying alive was selfish. taking it would have been the sacrifice.

on May. 26 2010 at 8:38 am
army_alyssa BRONZE, Wyoming, Michigan
2 articles 7 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
You've never felt pain, until you've felt love.

agreed. sucide is selfish.

on May. 20 2010 at 3:53 pm
kittttykat BRONZE, Sidney, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 10 comments
How is suicide selfish?

on May. 19 2010 at 8:04 pm
JocelynnTaylor GOLD, Templeton, Pennsylvania
10 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am a writer, and so I write.
I am a thinker, and so I think.
I am a human, and so I have human thoughts and feelings.

I have never considered suicide before!  I have never felt that 'the world isn't good enough for me', or that 'I am not good enough for the world'.  I thought that this article was very tragic, being that many teens killed theirselves because of others.  There is always a way through it.  It doesn't have to come down to suicide.

angier GOLD said...
on May. 19 2010 at 7:46 pm
angier GOLD, Centerville ,Pa, Pennsylvania
12 articles 6 photos 53 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. "

A few months ago a guy at my school commited suicide ... And my cousin tryed to too ... It doesnt matter if the attempt is made or if its done ... Its wrong - I once was so mad I took a knife and sliced my arm-After I did it - I looked at my arm and just broke down and started crying - I couldn't believe I had done that. The situation was stupid ... I couldnt believe - I was doing something like that to myself. I have a scar to this day - people ask what its from and I cover it up and say I cut myself in art with a blade. when I was carving . Only a few people know what really happened that day when I was locked in my bedroom .I tell people who really need to know - people who are cutting -dont believe me ... but I guess thats what you get for lying . It wasnt for attention - It was the last thing I wanted anyone knowing - I had disgraced myself ... I was sick with myself - I mean me - Student Peer, Student Council , Drama Club, Art Club,homecoming committe, the loudest cheerer in the stands had sunken that low - and it was dumb ... i mean thats not offesive but hey ... Its how I felt ... And people are saying people make up stuff that happened in there life - yeah sure maybe two faced phscho paths would make that kinda crap up ! BAD THINGS DO HAPPEN - This is the real world ... People get rapped,pregnat,molested, and really badly bulled. I once got laughed at because my hair -( th bump was to low - How Fracking lame is that ! ) People are dumb and people need to understand that untill you have walked a lifetime in someone else shoes you can t know how they feel, what they were feeling at that moment . And for people who still dont understand because you cabnt relate heres some more to think about - Guys or Kick a$$ girls - you know when someone makes fun of you or a friend or family member you get up and beat the crap out of them ... thats a reaction. Some people Write when there upset thats there reaction...or when you mess up on something you cry - you dont care who sees cause you know someone will comfort you - what if noone EVER comfroted you ? Some people dont take a chance ... I mean how much crap can you stand  ? You have to find your way to lat it go ... yeah cutting and Suicde suck and are horrible ways to deal with your stress/grief/depression ... or whatever - some people dont know till they try -yeah - sounds dumb buts its true ... So instead of complainig about if its okay to do it why dont you spread the word that it sucks ...and people who have dealt with this - spread your story - cause your story could save someones life - If they see how you got over your situation -thay could maybe change there mind about theres ... =)

SORRY - I sound so LAME !

haha - O - well ...

o yeah my story ...

My BF - was cheating , I felt I couldnt do anything right for my mother, my best friend was dating my brother, my brother rapped my sister, and My Mentally retareded brother just got checked into a Phscyh ward ... my life sucked ... but I lived - you can too ...

Things to think about before you make a mistake ... (Copping Skills)

1. Remeber all the good things in life

2. Think of family ... expecially younger siblings, nieces and nephews - what kind of example are you setting for them ?

3. Your Parents - it hurts when something or someone gets taken from you - imagine how they would feel if they knew you purposlly hurt yourself - the guilt could cause them to do something bad ...

4. Friends - I know all my friends would probally commit suicde or cut if I died ... I  probally  would have done  the same for them - but I realize thats not what they want ... or whatever ...

haha - too long - great piece - lots of debate - I luv debate ... It was good -the facts were scary ...

on May. 19 2010 at 6:59 pm
skatergirl13 PLATINUM, Woodbridge, Virginia
21 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
" your heart is the most valuable thing I have I don't want to lose it"

I know people should want to live there lives not end them. Kids shouldnt follow their friends foot steps if that happens. The kids just didn't see the opportunities they had in life

chihuahuaman said...
on May. 19 2010 at 12:38 pm
Very good article. opened my eyes opened the staggering number of suicides. its truely sad that this happens and people resort suicide instead of talking it out.

on May. 19 2010 at 4:20 am
you_are_awesome GOLD, London, Other
10 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
if you're a bird, i'm a bird :)

thanks for your reply :)  Hope you never feel like that again

on May. 18 2010 at 4:21 pm
tomorrowland17 BRONZE, Abingdon, Maryland
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It all is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

i've struggled with suicidal thoughts for the past two years.  for me, personally, it was never that 'the world wasn't good enough for me,' it was quite the opposte--'i'm not good enough for the world.' and yeah, sure, i guess that you are right about the fact that people who consider/commit suicide don't have that sort of positive perspective, but its understandable why they don't. people who consider/have considered suicide (me included) often feel like they've lost everything (and sometimes they quite literally have--family members, or even their entire families, their jobs, their homes, their hope) and so there's no use fighting anymore. they're done fighting and struggling. they're so tired, physically, emotionally, mentally. when you're thinking of ending your life, you're thinking that you're doing a good thing. you think you're ridding the world of the inconvenience that always was you. you think the people around you would be better off without your burdensome failures. you think you're being generous, not selfish. valiant, not cowardly. when i've considered taking my life in the past, i was thinking the opposite of everything that was true.