Media guidelines and suicide: A critical review.

Research paper by Steven S Stack

Indexed on: 20 Feb '20Published on: 19 Feb '20Published in: Social Science & Medicine


By providing information on help-seeking resources (HSR), Google's Suicide Prevention Results (SPR) fill a void, because less than 30% of news reports provide such information. This article addresses larger issues on media guidelines and suicide prevention. First, studies on the effects of providing HSR provide little support for a reduction in suicide. Second, research on the effects of other media guidelines often does not report the anticipated reductions in suicide. Third, although research does tend to support an increase in suicide after publicized suicides of celebrities, it does not necessarily happen for all categories of celebrity suicides. Fourth, there has been a lack of integration of (a) research on imitative effects of publicized suicides and (b) content analysis of stories' adherence to guidelines. Fifth, an associated puzzle is that (a) most research findings (64.2%) show no increase in suicide rates after suicide stories, while (b) most content analyses document widespread violations of media guidelines. Apparently, stories often violate media guidelines, but there is often no anticipated increase in suicide deaths. Rigorous research is needed to fully evaluate which media guidelines matter, and to determine the efficacy of Google's SPR program. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.