The association between suicide-related media coverage and suicide: A cross-sectional observational study

E. Hofstra*, M. Bakker, C. A. M. Diepstraten, Ch. van Nieuwenhuizen, C. M. van der Feltz-Cornelis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Objective
To examine the association between the publication and content of suicide-related media reports and actual suicide in Noord Brabant, a province of the Netherlands.

Method
Between April 2017 and March 2018, a retrospective cross-sectional observational study was conducted on suicide-related media reports and incident data regarding suicides. Linear regression, Mann-Whitney U and negative binomial regression analyses were conducted.

Results
In Noord-Brabant, a total of 352 people died from suicide during the observation period and 440 reports were identified by using the search terms “suicide”, “self-killing”, and “self-murder”. No associations between media reports and actual suicides were found for any of the analyses performed.

Conclusions
No indications were found for an association between media coverage of suicide and increases or decreases in actual suicides in Noord-Brabant. The descriptive statistics of this study reveal that the regional and national Dutch media are doing well with respect to not including elements in their reports that could encourage copycat behavior, such as simplifying, romanticizing or dramatizing. They could improve on including protective content, for example, providing supportive background information. A recommendation for further research is to evaluate causal relationships between media and actual suicide. A stepped wedge trial might be needed, as this provides an ethical research design to investigate this issue in a controlled setting. Also, in such a study, other variables influencing the decision to attempt suicide should be taken into account as much as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • Guidelines
  • Netherlands
  • media
  • prevention
  • suicide

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