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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How to Use Media to Improve Your Mental Health

If you are like me, watching too much news can wreak havoc on your mood. I begin to think our world is nothing but an evil, horrible, negative, cesspool of a place to live. I lose hope in humanity quickly as I hear story after story of war, murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and abuse. I become cynical, despondent, and downright depressed. Therefore, I limit my exposure to the news.

I noticed that my local news stations post the more horrific stories on their Facebook news feed than they broadcast on television, so I stopped following their pages. This has helped my mental health tremendously since I check in on Facebook multiple times throughout the day versus watching a televised newscast only once per day.

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5 Types of Media That Have a Positive Affect on My Mental Health

1.  Blogs that offer hope

I enjoy reading mental health blogs written by those who have struggled or are struggling, and are trying to get better. It is uplifting to read stories of perseverance, effort, compassion, and faith.

There are many bloggers out there who write only of their destructive ways; who are stuck in their illnesses and show no signs or interest in wanting to get better. They do not seem to have the insight or awareness into the things that they can change, and that is ok. They aren’t there yet, and I am not judging them for that. However, their negativity and anger is something I have to steer clear of for my own mental well-being, just as I have to with people in real life as well.

2.  Google Images

Sometimes when I am feeling down or just bored I will search positive keywords on Google and browse through the images that come up. I often add the word “quotes” to my keyword and then many photos of positive affirmations and sayings appear. For example, this one is from searching the words “friendship quotes”:

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And of course, you can find just regular photos of anything you can think of that makes you happy, including all the puppy and kitten pictures you could want!

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3.  Pinterest

I use Pinterest because it is a great way to save all of those images you find. That way you can come back to them again and again to boost your spirits whenever you need to. Plus, on Pinterest you have the advantage of having a million other people’s search results at your finger tips on the same topic you are interested in.

4.  YouTube Music and Photo Videos

Listening to your favorite music on any media device can help improve your mood.  You can find many songs on YouTube as well.  What I like to use YouTube for is to find non-mainstream type music that helps my mood, such as relaxation or meditative music.  Music that I wouldn’t necessarily buy, but that I might want to listen to every once in a while to help calm my nerves on a particularly stressful day.

I also like searching for photo-music slide shows.  They can be very soothing.  If you would enjoy photos of wooded areas, this one is nice.

5.  Twitter

If you search the hashtag “#affirmation” on Twitter, you can read all kinds of positive messages that will help lift your mood.  I know it helps me stay in a good frame of mind.

Do you know of any other ways to use media to improve your mental health?  Please share them in the comments below.