Over the years, suicide within the entertainment industry has been on an increase due to various mental health issues and pressures in their personal and career lives. With this increase, there has been a subsequent increase in suicide attempts right after the death of a celebrity by suicide. A considerable amount of research has investigated the association between celebrity suicides and subsequent suicidal behaviours or suicide rates in the general population of various societies. Suicidal ideation, attempts, and rates/risks were found to significantly increase in the general population following the publicized suicide death of a well-known figure. Some of the prior investigations have reported that such an increase may persist for longer than 1 year. Based on these findings, it has been suggested that celebrity suicide might be a critical risk factor for suicide attempts in the general population. (Park, et al. 2016)
Werther effect – a term coined by a sociologist named David Phillips (1974), which takes its name from the protagonist in Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1774 novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther,”. Immediately after the novel was published, suicides of young men in Germany and elsewhere in Europe reportedly rose dramatically. Significant research on this topic has leaned on the social learning theory, wherein susceptible individuals begin to identify with the concerned celebrity and often see suicide as a way out from issues they are dealing with.
Much of this has been associated with the media reporting of such an incident. Numerous studies have pointed out that media reporting of celebrity suicides, especially when the reporting sensationalizes the deaths, is associated with an increase in suicide rates among the general public. According to a review published by British Medical Journal (2020), several mechanisms could explain these results, including identification with the deceased person, and increased reporting leading to a normalization of suicide as an acceptable way to cope with difficulties. This has called the media for a much sensitive reporting in regard to such incidents. As a result, guidelines for responsible reporting of suicide by the media are now a standard component of many suicide prevention strategies.
Thus, when it comes to a tragic incident such as a celebrity suicide, guidelines have to be followed in the reporting. Media reporting has a direct impact on the subsequent suicide attempts following such an incident. Apart from the guidelines, as a mental health organization we feel it is important to spread the word about how important mental health is as physical health, and bringing awareness through programs such as suicide prevention workshops and other initiatives wherein the general public as well as individuals from all industries can participate and work to become a healthy society.
- Media reports of celebrity suicide linked to increased suicide rates. (2020)
Retrieved from: https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/media-reports-of-celebrity-suicide-linked-to-increased-suicide-rates/
- Park, J., Choi, N., Kim, S. J., Kim, S., An, H., Lee, H. J., & Lee, Y. J. (2016). The Impact of Celebrity Suicide on Subsequent Suicide Rates in the General Population of Korea from 1990 to 2010. Journal of Korean medical science. Retrieved from: https://www.jkms.org/Synapse/Data/PDFData/0063JKMS/jkms-31-598.pdf
- Perry S., (2020). Media coverage of celebrity suicides linked to ‘meaningful’ rise in suicide rates. Retrieved from: https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2020/03/media-coverage-of-celebrity-suicides-linked-to-meaningful-rise-in-suicide-rates/