Patients who are younger and depressed and have made a suicide attempt within a month prior to a media report of a celebrity suicide are at increased risk of a subsequent suicide attempt. The increase was almost 12 times higher than subjects with no previous attempt, 8 times higher to those with a suicide attempt within a half year, and further to 2 to 3-fold among those with a suicide attempt of longer than a half year.
Factors influencing the risk of media influences
- Age under 55 years
- Previous suicidal behavior
- Presence of depression
438 Depressive patients from psychiatric outpatient clinics of 6 medical centers in Taiwan were interviewed by psychiatrists. They were interviewed for suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts, psychiatric diagnosis and the clinical status of the patients depression before the first media report was assessed.
About one third of the respondents said that the reporting had a negative influence on their subsequent suicidal thoughts and attempts. In 5.5% there was a suicide attempt.
The media influence reached it’s peak at 40 days.
- Study relied on self-report
- Influence of other factors cannot be ruled out
- No comparison group without exposure
Need for more restrained reporting of suicides. On the website of the WHO there is a complete list with: Preventing Suicide: a resource series among which there is also a resource for media professionals to preventing suicide. (PDF 39KB)
CHENG, A., HAWTON, K., CHEN, T., YEN, A., CHANG, J., CHONG, M., LIU, C., LEE, Y., TENG, P., CHEN, L. (2007). The influence of media reporting of a celebrity suicide on suicidal behavior in patients with a history of depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 103(1-3), 69-75. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2007.01.021