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 223 comments.


on Dec. 12 2011 at 12:34 pm
CrazyGirl01 SILVER, Gibbon, Minnesota
7 articles 2 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." ~Albus Dumbledore

I think that what they want depends on the way the attempt the suicide. Pills- there's a chance I will live Gas poison- someone may find me Hanging- there's a silm chance I will actually do this right Jumping- I want them to see me die Gun- I'm finished

on Dec. 12 2011 at 10:30 am
PartyNinjaaXDD SILVER, Bradenton, Florida
6 articles 0 photos 3 comments
You're comment is True, But Most Teens do just want attention. they belive if they do the suicide in such a way that it takes time for them to die, they will. They hope and pray that somone will find them and help.

on Dec. 5 2011 at 7:39 pm
aspiringauthor_ BRONZE, Fairfield, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 326 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." - MLK Jr.

Suicide may indeed be a selfish act, but think of what those who are going through with the act are dealing with. They are in no state to be thinking of how their friends and family will react. 

on Nov. 21 2011 at 11:22 am
CrazyGirl01 SILVER, Gibbon, Minnesota
7 articles 2 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." ~Albus Dumbledore

I found this comment highly offensive. My brother took his own life, and I did a lot of questioning when it came to God. It always bothered me when people said things like "his soul is in He'll" or "he should've found God" and stuff like that. Where was your God when my brother was hurting? Where was he when my brother couldn't bear the pain anymore. If God is so great and food, then why do so many people suffer? They say it's a test, well the. I guess your God is a pretty sick person. At my brother's funeral, my priest said "Suicide is often thought of as a sin. It is not a sin, it is an illness." I think I'll listen to Father Eon before I listen to a judgmental Jesus Freak!

on Nov. 20 2011 at 10:32 pm
CrazyGirl01 SILVER, Gibbon, Minnesota
7 articles 2 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." ~Albus Dumbledore

I really don't think people take their own lives for attention. People take their lives because they have run out of options. They don't know what else to do. They have so much pain inside, that they just cant take it anymore. When someone is at that point, chances are, they aren't thinking about attention. They are, most likely, thinking about making all that pain go away.

on Nov. 20 2011 at 10:27 pm
CrazyGirl01 SILVER, Gibbon, Minnesota
7 articles 2 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." ~Albus Dumbledore

Well, of course they aren't thinking of how they are going to affect others. When someone commits suicide, they feel so alone in the world. They don't think that anybody cares that they are going to die. They aren't being selfish. They just feel like there is no one else to care.

on Nov. 20 2011 at 10:45 am
CameronG. BRONZE, Warsaw, Indiana
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
Your Options
1)Love me
2)Leave me alone

I cant get past the second paragraph either. Most people that try this not thinking people will miss them and yea it is because people feel hopeless  and alone. 

on Oct. 31 2011 at 10:19 am
I_Forgive_ButNever_Forget BRONZE, Hampton, Virginia
1 article 5 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
what dosent kill you simply makes you stranger

I have tried suicide in the past and I can tell you it is not for attention! My parents thought the same thing and threw me in a mental hospital. Trust me its not for that. And for teens out there thinking about it DON'T DO IT!! Trust me people will miss you!!

on Oct. 29 2011 at 9:43 pm
itsaponay BRONZE, Manhattan Beach, California
1 article 12 photos 83 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Oh, your dating my ex? I’m eating pizza, would you like those leftovers too?”

“Why do I ride? Why do you breathe?"

This is making me depressed... :'(

Naomi518 GOLD said...
on Oct. 7 2011 at 12:47 am
Naomi518 GOLD, Windsor, Connecticut
11 articles 15 photos 59 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light" ~Albus Dumbledore

ok. now that I finished the article I want to say that it was very imformative. However I feel like there was none of the author in it. Except for the last two lines, it was all statistics and facts. While that can be interesting, I started to lose interest in the last few paragraphs because I was looking for some of the author's opinion!

Naomi518 GOLD said...
on Oct. 7 2011 at 12:44 am
Naomi518 GOLD, Windsor, Connecticut
11 articles 15 photos 59 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light" ~Albus Dumbledore

I haven't read past the second paragraph yet because I can't get over the fact that that Cantor person seriously said it's for attention?!? She's a professional who should know that people kill themselves because they feel hopeless and unloved. not for attention! UGHH!

ellie315 GOLD said...
on Aug. 25 2011 at 11:33 pm
ellie315 GOLD, South Pasadena, California
10 articles 0 photos 86 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." -- William Shakespeare

This is very well written and very staggering. It was veyr much worth reading - I would like to this in a magazine, and not just TeenInk - even teens that aren't interested in writing should read this. Spread the word - you can make a difference.

wings713 said...
on Aug. 24 2011 at 7:03 pm
very good work. most people don't realize what an effect suicide has. this is a sad subject but it needs to be known.

on Aug. 24 2011 at 2:57 pm
marissa87 BRONZE, Glenmoore, Pennsylvania
4 articles 3 photos 80 comments

Favorite Quote:
what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular

I agree with AustinMags. it is amazing and very mature! it kept my interest the whole entire time. i thought that i would get a paragraph in our so and not want to rread anymore but when i came to the end i was longing for more information. thanks so much for sharing this information.!

AustinMags said...
on Aug. 16 2011 at 9:57 pm
This is an awesome article! I'm with the fight that's up against suicide, and this was an incredibly mature and brilliant way of approaching the topic. Thank you for sharing. :)

on Aug. 11 2011 at 9:34 pm
cheetoz45680 DIAMOND, Bridgeport, Connecticut
88 articles 0 photos 69 comments

Favorite Quote:
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

yeah she is really good and i liked her piece. she deff did alot of research

on Aug. 10 2011 at 9:55 pm
secrets_of_silence GOLD, Gisborne, Other
12 articles 0 photos 439 comments

Favorite Quote:
life had i loved the more
had it but passed away
as quietly as the day
ebbs from the darkening star.


-emanuel litvinoff

um ive been suicidal and im christian..... honestly its a case of some people need to find their coping mechanism....god is mine but isnt everyones. and god says not to judge

on Aug. 10 2011 at 9:53 pm
secrets_of_silence GOLD, Gisborne, Other
12 articles 0 photos 439 comments

Favorite Quote:
life had i loved the more
had it but passed away
as quietly as the day
ebbs from the darkening star.


-emanuel litvinoff

i agree with cheetoz45680 but i understand that the 'norms' or people who have never thought of doing it seriously may have impressions of it which differ to the truth........

but the writer has an amazing talent with a mature attitude and phrasing can we please focus on that???


Catiestar GOLD said...
on Aug. 6 2011 at 1:09 am
Catiestar GOLD, Clayton, New Jersey
17 articles 0 photos 54 comments

Favorite Quote:
You be the anchor that keeps my feet on the ground, I'll be the wings that keep your heart in the clouds <3

This is a great article. I think you're right. I have a few friends that have tried to committ suicide a few times (and failed, thank goodness), so I've researched it well. It's a terrible thing, and I think it's great that you put this out there. Well done!

on Aug. 3 2011 at 5:59 pm
alwer299 BRONZE, Florence, Massachusetts
1 article 1 photo 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
when in doubt, eat chocolate.-me
fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters, who bring you things you never asked for, and don't always like.










- Lemony Snicket

It won't be long until I grab the New York Times from my front yard and see that the main article on the cover was written by you. Seriously though that was an amazing piece, and it really sounded like something you would read in the newspaper. Hope you eventually get the job!


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