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Media Coverage of Suicide, Teen Suicide Clusters Linked

More newspaper stories published after index suicide in cluster; stories are more detailed

FRIDAY, May 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There is an association between newspaper coverage of suicide and teenage suicide clusters, according to a study published online May 2 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Madelyn S. Gould, Ph.D., from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues examined whether newspaper reports of suicide have a role in the emergence of suicide clusters. Suicide clusters were identified in young people (aged 13 to 20 years) in the United States from 1988 to 1996. Each cluster community was matched with non-cluster control communities in which suicides of similarly aged youth occurred. Newspapers were examined for stories about suicide published in the days between the first and second suicide in each cluster and for a matched length of time after the matched control suicide.

The researchers included 48 suicide clusters in the media review and 95 matched control communities. The mean number of news stories about suicidal individuals was significantly greater after an index cluster suicide than after a non-cluster suicide (7.42 versus 5.14; P < 0.0001). Compared with stories published after non-cluster suicides, stories published after the index cluster suicide more often exhibited characteristics such as front-page placement, headlines containing the word suicide or a description of the method, and detailed descriptions of the individual and act.

"Our identification of an association between newspaper reports about suicide (including specific story characteristics) and the initiation of teenage suicide clusters should provide an empirical basis to support efforts by mental health professionals, community officials, and the media to work together to identify and prevent the onset of suicide clusters," the authors write.

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