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The Impact of a Widely Publicized Celebrity Suicide on Suicide-Related Internet Search Activity.

Research paper by Martin Ø MØ Myhre, Fredrik A FA Walby

Indexed on: 29 Jan '21Published on: 28 Jan '21Published in: Archives of suicide research : official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research



Abstract

Media reporting of celebrities' deaths by suicide are prone to suicide contagion effects. The aim of the current study is to examine whether the widely publicized celebrity suicide of Ari Behn in Norway was associated with changes in search activity of suicide-related terms. Search activity data for the terms "suicide," "Ari Behn suicide," "how to suicide," and "suicide prevention" were retrieved from Google Trends. We analyzed data as an interrupted time series and used -tests to compare means before and after the suicide. Crude linear models examining the association between searches for "suicide" over time and an adjusted model controlling for searches after "Ari Behn suicide" were built. The models were tested with structural change tests. A significant increase in search activity for "suicide" ( = < .001), "Ari Behn suicide" (002 and "how to suicide" ( = .006) was found after the suicide. Searches for "suicide prevention" were not significant ( = .11). The structural change test was significant both for the model that did not control for explicit searches ( = <.001) and for the model controlled for explicit searches ( = <.001). A recent widely publicized suicide in Norway was associated with increases in Google searches for suicide. No indications of the Papageno effect were found. The media should be cautious when reporting about the suicides of prominent public persons. Compliance with generally accepted media reporting guidelines may need more attention. HIGHLIGHTS We found a significant increase in search activity for suicide related terms. More attention should be devoted to careful media reporting on celebrity suicides. Media should consider the volume of publicity carefully.