Intended for healthcare professionals


Influences of the media on suicide

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 14 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1374

Researchers, policy makers, and media personnel need to collaborate on guidelines

  1. Keith Hawton, director,
  2. Kathryn Williams, researcher
  1. Centre for Suicide Research, University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX

Reporting and portrayal of suicidal behaviour in the media may have potentially negative influences and facilitate suicidal acts by people exposed to such stimuli. Recent systematic reviews by others and ourselves (unpublished) have found overwhelming evidence for such effects.1 Evidence for the influence of media on suicidal behaviour has been shown for newspaper and television reports of actual suicides, film and television portrayals of suicides, and suicide in literature, especially suicide manuals. The potential for “suicide sites” on the internet influencing suicidal behaviour remains to be proved, but anecdotal evidence of negative influences is accumulating. 2 3

The impact of the media on suicidal behaviour seems to be most likely when a method of suicide is specified—especially when presented in detail—when the story is reported or portrayed dramatically …

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