Which suicides are reported in the media and what makes them “newsworthy”?
Machlin, A., Pirkis, J., & Spittal, M.J.
Background: Media reporting of suicide has attracted public health attention because of its potential to trigger "copycat" acts. Aims: To determine the factors associated with an individual suicide featuring in the media. Method: We identified from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS) all suicides that occurred in Australia over a 1-year period and established those that were reported in the Australian media using data from our earlier Media Monitoring Project. Available variables were used to examine factors associated with a suicide being reported in the media. Results: Of the 2,161 suicides, 29 were reported in the media. Suicides by younger individuals were particularly likely to be reported, as were suicides by gunshot and other violent methods, suicides in commercial areas (e.g., office buildings and hotels) and medical/residential facilities and other institutions (e.g., detention centers), and suicides that occurred in the context of multiple fatality events (e.g., homicide-suicides and suicide pacts). Conclusions: Striking the right balance in terms of media reporting of suicide is crucial. The current study suggests that the reported suicides tend to be those that may either heighten the risk of lethal imitative behaviors or serve to distort public perceptions about suicide.