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Media Coverage Impacts Suicide Rate, Report Finds

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A new report finds that the media’s sensationalization of suicide can lead people — and especially teenagers — to end their own lives.

The report comes from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, which examined 48 suicide “clusters” — or suicide outbreaks — by studying newspaper coverage. The researchers found that these clusters are often preceded by a highly detailed news report (including time, place, and method) involving suicide in some way.

In other words, the more media coverage about a suicide, the higher the chances that it will spawn a series of other suicides.

New York State Psychiatric Institute representative Madelyn Gould says the amount of coverage a particular suicide receives has a huge impact on the chances of creating one of these suicide clusters.

“The more sensational the coverage of the suicides, and the more details the story provides, then the more likely there are to be more suicides,” Gould said.

The report found that the most dangerous suicides involved famous people. “After a prominent suicide in the community, suicide rates in that area might temporarily increase,” researchers indicated.

In fact, the report found that a single celebrity suicide — like the death of a famous musician, actor, or politician — could cause a spike in the national suicide rate.

The report, which has been published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, suggests it’s time for the media to take more care with the way it handles the topic of suicide.

“Our findings support the interpretation that media portrayals of suicide might have a role in the emergence of some teenage suicide clusters,” the report concluded.

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