Media And Suicide.
Posted by Gerard Hannan
‘Headline’ is Ireland’s national media monitoring program for mental health and suicide, working to promote responsible and accurate coverage of mental health and suicide related issues within the Irish media. Specifically, headline aims to highlight mental health and suicide issues and address the stigma attached to emotional distress and mental illness through the promotion of responsible media coverage.
Headline is funded by the HSE’s national office for suicide prevention as part of the reach out strategy, and is managed by Shine; supporting people affected by mental ill health. We are guided by a steering group constructed of a number of national agencies concerned with suicide prevention.
The media have a significant role to play in promoting positive mental health and actively reducing stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health difficulties. With one in four people experiencing mental and/or behavioural disorders during their lifetime and everyone knowing someone who has been touched by suicide; tackling stigma is an issue for everyone.
Copycat suicides account for approximately 6% of all suicides and this imitative behaviour can follow certain types of news reports and under portrayals of suicide. We wouldn’t have a multimillion euro advertising market in this country if people didn’t think you could influence someone else’s behaviour through the media.
Those most affected seemed beyond the age of 24 and the elderly. Ireland has fifth highest youth suicide in Europe. The risk is greater when there is a sense of identification with the deceased, for example, a celebrity suicide or a fictional character that the vulnerable person emphasizes and identifies with. Romanticizing suicide as a heroic act is an acceptable strategy for dealing with the problem.
Headline monitors all national and regional print media daily. They search publications for a list of search words and monitored content, tone, and imagery of the articles. Headline will contact editors and journalists directly through letters, e-mails, meetings and phone calls. Headline action public complaints about the media directly our with the be BCC (Broadcasting Complaints Commission). They run training sessions for working media, media communication and journalism students.
Headline provides weekly e-mailed headline news highlights on mental health and suicide. People find this a useful way to keep up on all the relevant coverage about suicide and mental health. Headline sponsors an annual category in this media awards for students studying journalism are media communications.
A guide for journalists and brought casters reporting on schizophrenia stress such considerations as proper use of language and terminology, giving information, dispelling the myths around mental health problems.
A new study by Dr. Sally Johnson of the University of North Carolina found that people with a mental health illness are no more likely than anyone else to commit acts of violence, however mental health illness combined with substance abuse does increase the risk of future violence. These findings challenge the perception some people have, and which you often see reflected in media coverage, that mental illness alone makes someone more dangerous. The researchers carried out a statistical analysis of data collected as part of a study involving over 34,000 people. The results showed – if a person has severe mental illness without substance abuse and history of violence, he or she has the same chances of being violent during the next three years as at any other person in the general population.
The team found that when mental illness is combined with substance abuse, the risk for future violent reaches a level of statistical significance. However, even mental illness combined with substance abuse ranks only ninth on the studies list of the top 10 predictors of future violence. The high-ranking predictors, listed in order of their predictive value, are:
- Age: younger people are more likely to commit acts of violence.
- History of violence.
- Sex; males are more prone to violence.
- History of juvenile detention.
- Divorce our separation in the past year.
- History of physical abuse.
- Parental criminal history.
- Unemployment for the past year.
- Mental illness combined with substance abuse.
- Victimization in the past year.
The data shows it is simplistic as well as inaccurate to say the cause of violence among mentally ill individuals is the mental illness itself. Details of these findings are published in the Journal, Archives of General Psychiatry by Dr. Sally Johnson of the University of North Carolina.
The words anorexic and bulimia are adjectives and not nouns and therefore should not be used to describe the person for example ‘Mary is an anorexic’. That’s use implies that Mary is defined by her anorexia; other aspects of her personality are being ignored. It is better to say that ‘Mary has anorexia’ or ‘Peter has bulimia’ and so on. Eating disorders are a recognized mental illness. When referring to mental illness, there’s a great need to be mindful of issues around stigmatize nation. Recognize eating disorders in males. One in 10 people with an eating disorder are male. Making eating disorders a female only subject makes it harder for males to come forward to get the help they need.
Unlike televised suicide stories, print or online suicide stories can be saved, reread, displayed and studied. However, new technologies such as portable DVD, mobile phones, laptops and handheld computers and iPods make information easier to access at any given time.
TV drama does affect suicide rates. An episode of Casualty contained a storyline about a paracetamol overdose. Research showed that self poisoning increased by 17% in the following week and 9% in the second week. 20% of self poisoning patients who had seen the program said that it had influenced their decision to attempt suicide.
Copycat effect in print; for example, in the book Final Exit a guide to suicide for terminally ill persons, asphyxiation is the recommended means of suicide. In the year that this book was published the number of suicides by asphyxiation in New York rose from 8 to 33. Furthermore, a copy of Final Exit was found at the premises of 27% of these suicides.
Impact of Austrian media guidelines on suicide; a sharp increase in the number of subway suicides in Vienna was linked to a dramatic increase in their coverage in the media. The Austrian Association for Suicide Prevention launched a media campaign to change the amount and nature of press coverage of subway suicides. After the campaign the Austrian press either did not report the subway suicides at all, or cover them in short reports in the inside pages. During the years of sensation of news coverage there were up to nine subway suicides per six months. After the sensational coverage ceased, there were between one and four subway suicides per six-month intervals.
Quick guide for reporting a suicide: avoid phrases like a successful suicide, and unsuccessful suicide, commit suicide, suicide victim, just a cry for help, suicide prone person or epidemic of suicide. Always use phrases like: a suicide, died by suicide, a suicide attempt, take his/her life, kill oneself, a complete suicide, and a person at risk of suicide. Other key points to remember when reporting suicide are as follows;
- Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide.
- Remember the effect on survivors of suicide.
- Look after yourself when writing about suicide.
- Don’t romanticize or glorify suicide.
- Don’t imply that there are positive results to be gained by suicide.
- Seek expert advice.
- Use appropriate language.
- Include contact details for sources of help and information.
- Challenge the common myths about suicide.
- Avoid use of graphic images of suicide.
Headline is a one-stop resource for the media. It offers helpful tips for writing about mental health and suicide. It is fully informed in Irish and international media guidelines and has all necessary information on mental health and suicide related issues. It offers useful links for organizations related to media, mental health and suicide. It also offers access to a web site.
What is The Broadcasting Complaints Commission?
The broadcasting complaints commission is an independent statutory body. Its task is to consider and adjudicate upon complaints about material broadcast, both programs and advertisements, in relation to:
- Impartiality in news and current affairs.
- Taste and decency; code of program standards.
- Law and order.
- Privacy of an individual.
- Published matter in relation to RTE and Ministerial prohibitions.
- General advertising codes.
- Children’s advertising codes.
- Any viewer or listener can refer complaints to this organization if they are not happy about broadcasting content on any Irish broadcasting service under any of these categories.
The Press Council and Press Ombudsman: The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman were established in January 2008 and it is an independent press complaint mechanism that is quick, fair and free. The objectives of the Press Council And Press Ombudsman and are to provide the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints about the press, to resolve all of complaints quickly, fairly and free of charge. It also aims to maintain the highest standards of Irish journalism and journalistic ethics and to defend the freedom of the press and the freedom of the public to be informed. For a complaint to be examined by the office of the press ombudsman and it must breach the code of practice for newspapers and periodicals, and the person making the complaint must show that they have been directly affected by, and involved in the article or behaviour in question.
About Gerard HannanMedia Student at MIC/UL in Limerick, Ireland. Worked as a Broadcaster/Journalist in Limerick for over 25 Years and has also published four local interest books.
Posted on March 27, 2012, in Media and tagged Archives of General Psychiatry, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, IPod, Ireland History, Mary, Mental disorder, Mental health, University of North Carolina. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.