headlines. (4) Celebrity suicides have greater impact. (5) Portrayal of “rewards” such as the grieving family and boy/girlfriend can foster revenge motivations for suicide, especially among angry and dejected youth. (6) Media reporting indicating suicide as something that is “unavoidable,” that “someone will be next.” (7) Presenting suicide as a political issue, e.g., as due to desegregation or job stress. (8) Victims shown as possessing desirable, high status qualities.

Dr. Gould indicated that teenagers are especially vulnerable to contagion of suicide from portrayals in the media, as well as through direct knowledge of the person (clusters). The stronger the similarities between the individual and the victim portrayed in a media story, the greater is the impact of the story. Dr. Gould described a study of media coverage of suicide in Japan that showed that if the story was about a Japanese individual the rate of completed suicide went up in Japan, but not if the story was about a non-Japanese person.

Editors say they want to report responsibly, but at the time they wrote the story, they didn’t know who to contact, and didn’t know how to make it a pro-social story, and it turned out wrong.

Madelyn Gould

The media can have an impact on suicide, not only by avoiding deleterious effects, but also to increase public health and wellbeing. Dr. Hemenway cited such examples in the injury field. The media now include the status of any smoke detectors when a fire is reported. Likewise, helmet use is indicated when reporting a bicycle. Dr. Gould underscored the importance of reporting correct information about suicide. Anecdotal data reveal numerous instances of misleading and/or incomplete information about risk factors, implicating trivial triggers, with no or minimal coverage of antecedent mental disorders, and rare or absent listing of local services. Dr. Gould highlighted this opportunity for media to have a positive and proactive impact on suicide prevention.

We really need a media-public health partnership.

Madelyn Gould

Dr. Gould made recommendations for pro-social media reporting on suicide. The foremost overarching need is to establish and then to institutionalize working relationships, and possibly new organizations, linking public health, mental health, and the media. Such relationships and/or institutions would necessarily include media professionals and training program leaders, researchers, and advocacy groups. They would serve as a ready source of information for journalists and would develop national media guidelines. Courses in ethical and pro-social reporting should be mandatory in all journalism programs. Continued education about the newest data for journalists is indicated. A venue for continued dialog among all stakeholders should also be established. Dr. Kay Jamison expressed concern that attempts to encourage responsible reporting



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