Year: 2020 Source: PNAS Latest Articles. (2020). SIEC No: 20200567

Rates of suicide in the United States are at a more than 20-y high.
Suicide contagion, or spread of suicide-related thoughts and behaviors through exposure to sensationalized and harmful content
is a well-recognized phenomenon. Health authorities have published guidelines for news media reporting on suicide to help prevent contagion; however, uptake of recommendations remains
limited. A key barrier to widespread voluntary uptake of suicidereporting guidelines is that more sensational content is perceived
to be more engaging to readers and thus enhances publisher visibility and engagement; however, no empirical information exists
on the actual influence of adherence to safe-reporting practices on
reader engagement. Hence, we conducted a study to analyze adherence to suicide-reporting guidelines on news shared on social
media and to assess how adherence affects reader engagement.
Our analysis of Facebook data revealed that harmful elements
were prevalent in news articles about suicide shared on social
media while the presence of protective elements was generally rare.
Contrary to popular perception, closer adherence to safe-reporting
practices was associated with a greater likelihood of an article being
reshared (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.19, 95% confidence interval
[CI] = 1.10 to 1.27) and receiving positive engagement (“love” reactions) (AOR = 1.20, 95% CI = 1.13 to 1.26). Mean safe-reporting scores
were lower in the US than other English-speaking nations and variation existed by publisher characteristics. Our results provide empirical
evidence that improved adherence to suicide-reporting guidelines
may benefit not only the health of individuals, but also support publisher goals of reach and engagement.