Experts have reached a somber conclusion. In a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, scientists stated that media coverage of celebrity deaths by suicide may encourage other people to commit suicide and increase suicide death statistics. Over 17,000 articles published by 13 famous sources were analyzed for the study. The articles appeared in the Toronto media market.
The aim of the researchers was to find a link between the way suicide was reported by the press and how the suicide rates fluctuated in the first seven days after the articles were published. The results soon appeared. A number of 947 suicides were registered between 2011 and 2014 with 6367 articles published within the timespan. It was observed that after some articles were published, suicide rate dramatically increased in the seven days after some of the articles were published.
More suicides occurred if the articles described the method of suicide, even more so if it was mentioned aggressively in the headline. The rate also increased if the person who died was a celebrity and death was described as inescapable.
The phenomenon was named contagion suicide by the researchers. If a celebrity was involved, the contagion grew if the method was described in detail by the article. The discovery confirms theories presented in other studies. After Robin Williams killed himself in 2014, the method used was searched online by an increased number of internet users. According to the study, people identified with the person which committed suicide when they learned how she or he died.
On a more positive note, if the article included helpful messages and resources the impact on the population was high. They can really help people who go through a crisis and need support in order to cope with their problems. It is also advised the press should respect certain guidelines when they report on suicides.