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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Apr;932:200-21; discussion 221-4.

Suicide and the media.

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  • 1Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Division of Epidemiology, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, 1051 Riverside Drive, Unit 72, New York, NY 11024, USA.


Evidence continues to amass on the significant impact of media coverage on suicide. The research literature on the impact of news reports of nonfictional suicides as well as fictional suicide stories is reviewed in order to determine the nature and scope of the influence of the mass media on suicide. The current review, building upon earlier reviews, is limited to English language publications or English translations of articles and/or abstracts. The interactive factors that may moderate the impact of media stories are also reviewed. Such interactive factors include characteristics of the stories (agent), individuals' attributes (host), and social context of the stories (environment). Recommendations are presented for the reporting of suicide stories, which may minimize the risk of imitative suicides. The media's positive role in educating the public about risks for suicide and shaping attitudes about suicide is emphasized. In summary, the existence of suicide contagion no longer needs to be questioned. We should refocus our research efforts on identifying which particular story components promote contagion under which circumstances and which components are useful for preventive programming.

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