Suicide in the Media: Getting it Done Right

I have been reading thoughts online and hearing opinions in real life regarding a Netflix series about a teenage girl who dies by suicide, and what questions this show raises about the media’s responsibility for portraying triggering, and even instructional, scenes on how to take one’s own life. In response to this, I would like to refer to an article published this month by Lisa Firestone, PhD in Psychology Today, who states:

“Guidelines on the media’s portrayal of suicide include never glamorizing or sensationalizing it in any way, period. Specific means for suicide should not be shown or related. Any depiction of suicide should include a story of a survivor who is living proof that the suicidal state can be temporary…In addition, any discussion of suicide should include resources for people who may be in crisis or are worried about someone they know. Media should also include a list of warning signs for suicide, which can help people identify when someone’s at risk.”

I feel distressed because so many preteen and young teenagers are watching this show, which has a ‘MA’ rating. I feel worried because kids with mental illness are watching this and possibly being triggered into self-harming behaviors and emotional anguish. And, God forbid, if any one of them is moved to end their life because this show’s message gives them the final reason to do it or the final way to go about doing it.

Don’t get me wrong…It is important to talk about suicide to raise awareness and get people who need help to open up and reach out for it, but like Firestone says, without following proven recommendations on how to report on suicide, “we risk contributing to individuals’ suicide risk and even creating contagion, especially among teens.”

Please remember, the suicide state is often passing and temporary. It can be a trance-like state that can leave people with diminished awareness of the fact that if they wait things out they may regret even considering suicide at all. Many people who have made serious attempts often have these types of regrets, because like everyone says, things do get better. Nothing ever stays the same. Don’t give up just before things change!

Warning Signs of Suicide

(from the American Association of Suicidology)

  • Talking about wanting to die.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Resources:

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6 thoughts on “Suicide in the Media: Getting it Done Right

  1. You must be a psychologist. I doubt you’ve ever even contemplated suicide. I get tired of the ignorant trying to rule over unknowns. You just as well define the “x”-value of algebra for all cases “x.” Censorship is not the way to understanding, no matter who you are, your education, means, status, or rank.

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    • I am not a psychologist. I attempted suicide and survived (obviously.) Do you have children? I am referring to children being exposed to these things in the media, not adults.

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  2. I do not, but nor would I ever have children in today’s world as it is. Cursed are they from the moment light pierces their retinas. Would you knowingly bring children into this god-forsaken world? If so, how dare you!

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  3. I have 3 adult sons. 2 of them share my bipolar disorder with suicidal ideations. We talk about it all the time because we need to. I’ve had to teach them that unfortunately, it is a part of our illness and it needs to be discussed urgently as much as needed at any time and as long as it takes. I had to take that responsibility as soon as I heard my middle son in his teen years tell me that he wanted to die. So, we talk and we don’t stop until the moment passes. I thank God that they allow me to talk with them. I don’t like that Netflix show because yes, it does concern me for other kids. There are many things out there about this subject that concern me when it comes to children. I am blessed to have such an open and shameless family! When we get stuck down in the hole it is a family emergency but not all children have a support system. Some of them deal with this alone! It’s heartbreaking!

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    • It is so heartbreaking to know some kids deal with this alone! My daughter’s public school actually sent home an email warning parents that the kids are watching this show and that parents should really watch and discuss with them because of the heavy topics they cover such as suicide and rape. I was impressed the school took a stance like that. Too much for a twelve year old in my opinion. My older teen has depression and suicidal thoughts are discussed openly in our family as well. We can’t be afraid of them. They are much more dangerous if they remain a secret.

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