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      Effect of suicide prevention law and media guidelines on copycat suicide of general population following celebrity suicides in South Korea, 2005–2017

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          To prevent copycat suicides following media reporting of celebrity suicides, the South Korean government enacted a ‘suicide prevention law’ in 2012 and revised the media guidelines for suicide reporting in 2013. This study examined how these two regulatory measures affected suicide trends among the general population in South Korea.


          We analyzed the individual effect estimates for the general population within 30 days following the media report of 24 celebrity suicides using multivariate negative binomial regression. We performed a meta-analysis to compute the pooled rate ratios of the two regulations. We examined the trends in daily suicides by month during three time intervals before and after enactment using an autoregressive model and tested their significance using a piecewise linear regression.


          Total suicides increased by 6.27 daily during the 30-day period after celebrity suicides. Compared with the 30 days prior to the reports on the suicide of 24 celebrities, the number of suicidal deaths in the general population increased by 13% during the 30 days after the reports were announced (pooled rate ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval: 0.06–0.18; p < 0.001). There was a significant downward trend in the average daily suicide deaths, and no significant increase in suicide rates, after the enactment of the suicide prevention law ( p < 0.001) and revision of the media guidelines ( p = 0.014).


          Suicide prevention and media guidelines were effective in reducing the effect of celebrity suicides. In addition to regulating media reporting of celebrity suicide, measures are needed to address viral republication on social media and to prevent suicide among entertainers.

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          Media Roles in Suicide Prevention: A Systematic Review

          The aim of the current systematic review was to monitor and provide an overview of the research performed about the roles of media in suicide prevention in order to find out possible effects media reporting on suicidal behaviours might have on actual suicidality (completed suicides, attempted suicides, suicidal ideation). The systematic review was performed following the principles of the PRISMA statement and includes 56 articles. Most of the studies support the idea that media reporting and suicidality are associated. However, there is a risk of reporting bias. More research is available about how irresponsible media reports can provoke suicidal behaviours (the ‘Werther effect’) and less about protective effect media can have (the ‘Papageno effect’). Strong modelling effect of media coverage on suicide is based on age and gender. Media reports are not representative of official suicide data and tend to exaggerate sensational suicides, for example dramatic and highly lethal suicide methods, which are rare in real life. Future studies have to encounter the challenges the global medium Internet will offer in terms of research methods, as it is difficult to define the circulation of news in the Internet either spatially or in time. However, online media can provide valuable innovative qualitative research material.
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            Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide: Werther v. Papageno effects.

            Media reporting of suicide has repeatedly been shown to trigger suicidal behaviour. Few studies have investigated the associations between specific media content and suicide rates. Even less is known about the possible preventive effects of suicide-related media content. To test the hypotheses that certain media content is associated with an increase in suicide, suggesting a so-called Werther effect, and that other content is associated with a decrease in suicide, conceptualised as a Papageno effect. Further, to identify classes of media articles with similar reporting profiles and to test for associations between these classes and suicide. Content analysis and latent class analysis (LCA) of 497 suicide-related print media reports published in Austria between 1 January and 30 June 2005. Ecological study to identify associations between media item content and short-term changes in suicide rates. Repetitive reporting of the same suicide and the reporting of suicide myths were positively associated with suicide rates. Coverage of individual suicidal ideation not accompanied by suicidal behaviour was negatively associated with suicide rates. The LCA yielded four classes of media reports, of which the mastery of crisis class (articles on individuals who adopted coping strategies other than suicidal behaviour in adverse circumstances) was negatively associated with suicide, whereas the expert opinion class and the epidemiological facts class were positively associated with suicide. The impact of suicide reporting may not be restricted to harmful effects; rather, coverage of positive coping in adverse circumstances, as covered in media items about suicidal ideation, may have protective effects.
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              Assessing the impact of media guidelines for reporting on suicides in Austria: interrupted time series analysis.

              Media guidelines for reporting on suicides are a widely used means of preventing imitative suicides, but scientific accounts of their impact on suicide numbers are sparse. This report provides an evaluation of the Austrian guidelines that were introduced in 1987 as a natural experiment. The impact of the guidelines was tested by applying an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) model and a linear regression model. In addition to a nationwide evaluation, Austria was divided into three areas according to regional differences in coverage rates of the collaborating newspapers and the impact of the intervention was tested for each area separately. Main outcome measures were the overall annual suicide numbers, and the numbers of Viennese subway suicides that were exceptionally newsworthy for the mass media. In order to test intermediate impacts, also quantitative and qualitative changes in media reporting after the introduction of the guidelines were analysed. There was some evidence of a nationwide impact of the guidelines, calculated as a significant reduction of 81 suicides (95% confidence interval: -149 to -13; t = -2.32, df = 54, p <0.024) annually. This effect was particularly due to a significant reduction in the area with the highest coverage rates of the collaborating newspapers. Viennese subway suicides showed a highly significant level shift (t = -4.44, df = 19, p <0.001) and a highly significant trend change (t = -4.20, df = 19, p <0.001) after the introduction of the guidelines. These effects corresponded to significant changes in the quality and quantity of media reporting. The present results clearly support the hypothesis that the media guidelines have had an impact on the quality of reporting as well as on suicidal behaviour in Austria, and stress the importance of collaborating with nationwide, but also with regional media to achieve efficacy. Further research is needed to provide an international insight into this public health issue.

                Author and article information

                Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
                Aust N Z J Psychiatry
                SAGE Publications
                May 2022
                July 07 2021
                May 2022
                : 56
                : 5
                : 542-550
                [1 ]Department of Psychiatry, Depression Center, Samsung Medical Center, School of Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea
                [2 ]Department of Research and Analysis, Korea Psychological Autopsy Center (KPAC), Seoul, Korea
                [3 ]Department of Psychiatry, Keyo Hospital, Uiwang, Korea
                [4 ]Department of Neurosychiatry, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam, Korea
                [5 ]Department of Statistical Analysis, Korea Suicide Prevention Center (KPAC), Seoul, Korea
                [6 ]Department of Health Sciences and Technology, Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology (SAIHST), Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea
                [7 ]Department of Medical Device Management and Research, Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology (SAIHST), Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea
                [8 ]Department of Clinical Research Design and Evaluation, Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences & Technology (SAIHST), Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea
                © 2022



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