Suicide and the media: reporting could cost livesBMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m870 (Published 18 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m870
- David Gunnell, professor1 2,
- Lucy Biddle, senior lecturer1 3
- 1Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
- 2National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
- 3National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West), University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol, UK
- Correspondence to: D Gunnell
News coverage of television presenter Caroline Flack’s recent death by suicide once again raises public health concerns about media reporting of suicide. Freedom of the press is one of the fundamental pillars of a democratic society, but is regulation around some aspects of the media reporting of suicide required?
Niederkrotenthaler and colleagues’ systematic review in The BMJ (doi:10.1136/bmj.m575)1 suggests that the answer could be “yes.” The team synthesised findings from 31 studies investigating associations between media reporting of deaths by suicide and population suicide rates. Most studies looked at the reporting of deaths of celebrities by suicide. The phenomenon has been studied in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia, highlighting the international extent of concerns. Suicide rates increased by 13% (95% confidence interval 8% to 18%) on average in the period (median 28 days) following media reports of the death of a celebrity by suicide.
This effect is substantial. In the United Kingdom, where 6507 people died by suicide in 2018 (542 per month),2 a 13% …