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      Media Roles in Suicide Prevention: A Systematic Review


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          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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          Suicide in the media: a quantitative review of studies based on non-fictional stories.

          Research on the effect of suicide stories in the media on suicide in the real world has been marked by much debate and inconsistent findings. Recent narrative reviews have suggested that research based on nonfictional models is more apt to uncover imitative effects than research based on fictional models. There is, however, substantial variation in media effects within the research restricted to nonfictional accounts of suicide. The present analysis provides some explanations of the variation in findings in the work on nonfictional media. Logistic regression techniques applied to 419 findings from 55 studies determined that: (1) studies measuring the presence of either an entertainment or political celebrity were 5.27 times more likely to find a copycat effect, (2) studies focusing on stories that stressed negative definitions of suicide were 99% less likely to report a copycat effect, (3) research based on television stories (which receive less coverage than print stories) were 79% less likely to find a copycat effect, and (4) studies focusing on female suicide were 4.89 times more likely to report a copycat effect than other studies. The full logistic regression model correctly classified 77.3% of the findings from the 55 studies. Methodological differences among studies are associated with discrepancies in their results.
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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.
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              Suicide and the media. Part I: Reportage in nonfictional media.

              Numerous studies have considered the association between media reporting and portrayal of suicide and actual suicidal behavior or ideation. This review considered 42 studies that have examined the nonfiction media (newspapers, television, and books). Consideration was given to the extent to which inferences could be made about the relationship between portrayal of suicide in the given media and actual suicidal behavior in terms of: the strength of its association; and the extent to which it could be considered causal. The review demonstrated that there is an association between nonfictional media portrayal of suicide and actual suicide. The association satisfies sufficient of the criteria of consistency, strength, temporality, specificity and coherence for it to be deemed causal.

                Author and article information

                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                04 January 2012
                January 2012
                : 9
                : 1
                : 123-138
                [1 ] Central Behavior & Health Science, Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology Institute (ERSI), 39 Õie, Tallinn 11615, Estonia; Email: airiv@ 123456online.ee
                [2 ] Institute of Social Work, Tallinn University, 25 Narva mnt, Tallinn 10120, Estonia
                Author notes
                [* ] Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; Email: merike.sisask@ 123456neti.ee .
                © 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

                : 10 November 2011
                : 15 December 2011
                : 30 December 2011

                Public health
                protective effect,suicidality,media reporting,suicidal behaviours,papageno effect,media portrayal,internet,provocative effect,media,werther effect,copycat effect


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