Media coverage is not the primary reason for the suicide, but it can serve as the crucial trigger during a critical phase of the illness.
Certain characteristics of a report will make imitation more likely:
- Repetitive detailed reporting of the suicide;
- Greater emotional content;
- Suicide by a celebrity;
- Reports in the print media;
This is not to say that suicide should not be discussed within the media, but know that the risk of a person identifying with a suicide is increased when:
- Attention is drawn to the suicide using cover stories, headlines and photos;
- Terms such as suicide appear in the headline;
- The suicide method is described in detail;
- A readily accessible scene is described or even glorified;
- The social environment, the identity and motives are described poignantly;
- The suicide is presented positively, or is glorified or romanticized;
- The suicide is presented as completely incomprehensible or inevitable.
This risk decreases when:
- Alternative solutions to problems and crises are suggested;
- Suicide is depicted as a disease that could successfully be treated;
- Background information is included in the clinical picture;
- Expert opinion is sought;
- Helplines and contacts are indicated;
- The work undertaken by professionals is reported.