• Vol. 37 No. 9, 797–799
  • 15 September 2008

The Media and Suicide

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ABSTRACT

Suicide is a common and preventable event that is often reported by the media when there are sensationalistic elements or if the suicide involves a celebrity. Media reports of suicide can induce a copycat or “Werther effect”. There is increasing evidence that sensationalistic reporting of suicides has a direct effect on increasing suicide rates. Responsible reporting guidelines drawn up in consultation with media professionals have been shown to improve reporting of suicides. Local reporting on suicides tends to be sensationalistic but also has a strong educational slant. The media should educate both the public and the medical professional about their role in suicide prevention.


Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998, and 2.4% in countries with market and former socialist economies in 2020. This is equal to the burden due to wars and homicide, roughly twice the burden of diabetes and equal to the burden of birth asphyxia and trauma.

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