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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 443-447

Celebrity suicide and its effect on further media reporting and portrayal of suicide: An exploratory study

1 Department of Psychiatry, D. Y. Patil Medical College and Research Centre, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Consultant Psychiatrist, Dhanvantari Mind Care and Nursing Home, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Avinash De Sousa
Carmel, 18, St. Francis Road, Off S.V. Road, Santacruz (West), Mumbai - 400 054, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5545.196704

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Background: Suicide is a grave mental health problem in India, and suicide rates in India have risen over the past decades. Suicide reporting by the media is a common cause for spurts of suicides that may occur from time to time. The aim of the present study was to assess the change in trends in media reporting of suicide after a celebrity suicide. Methodology: Suicide by the renowned actor Robin Williams was selected as the reference case. The top three Indian daily newspapers published in English having the highest circulation as per the Registrar of Newspapers, Government of India report were selected to be scanned in the study. These were the Times of India – Mumbai edition, Mumbai Mirror, and the Daily News Analysis – Mumbai edition. The authors screened all news stories in the three newspapers within a 6-month period (3 months prior and 3 months post the date of the reference suicide case), and these news reports were evaluated as per the suicide reporting guidelines for media laid down by the Indian Psychiatric Society. The data were analyzed using Chi-square test and descriptive statistics where appropriate. Results: A total of 708 newspaper articles were identified on the basis of the guidelines mentioned above. Nearly 88% (n = 623) of the articles directly covered suicide while 4.09% (n = 29) focused on suicidal threats and 7.91% (n = 56) focused on parasuicide behavior. There was a significantly greater increase in the total number of articles printed after the celebrity suicide (n = 409) for all article types except teasers as compared to that before the celebrity suicide (n = 299). There was a significantly greater increase in front page news on suicide after the celebrity suicide (P = 0.0016), description of the method of suicide (P = 0.0221), and the mention of the suicide notes (P = 0.0002). Most articles after the celebrity suicide placed the blame on someone or the environment for the act (P = 0.0001). Conclusions: A change in media trend toward reporting suicide was noted post a celebrity suicide, and it is important that media follow guidelines stringently when reporting a serious problem like suicide.



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