Evidence and research

Evidence and research studies inform the Mindframe guidelines and provide context to Mindframe's approach, which supports safe media reporting, portrayal and communication about suicide.

Over two hundred studies focusing on the association between suicide in the media and actual suicidal behaviour were identified collectively between the two reviews, which constitute an update of reviews previously conducted in 2010.

Along with the critical reviews, two Media Monitoring studies have been conducted in Australia to provide information about the way Australian news media report suicide.

Suicide and the media 2018

In 2018, Everymind commissioned two studies on Mindframe’s behalf to be written by Jane Pirkis, Warwick Blood, Georgina Sutherland and Dianne Currier, to update reviews published in 2010.

In A Critical Review, Suicide and the News and Information Media, 168 studies were identified relating to a range of media (newspapers, television, books, the Internet, and mixed media), to assess the causal link between news and information media reporting and actual suicidal behaviours and thoughts.

The reviewers acknowledge news and information media’s role in raising awareness of suicide as a public health issue and conclude that referencing suicide can influence copycat suicide acts in particular circumstances. It is recommended that presentations of suicide by news and information media are done responsibly and balanced to reduce any potential harm.

The second study, A Critical Review, Suicide and the Entertainment Media, identified 54 studies on suicide portrayals in film and television, music and plays to assess if there is a causal link between entertainment media portrayals of suicide and actual suicidal behaviours and thoughts. More than half of the studies identified suggested evidence of a harmful imitation effect of suicide portrayals in this form of media.

Entertainment media are recommended to remain cautious when portraying suicide, with specific recommendations to avoid glorifying or romanticising suicide and to avoid detail of method.

Portrayals of the consequences of suicide for others, the potential hazards of certain methods and inclusion of information on help for viewers are preferred. The review recommends mental health professionals and suicide prevention experts work with those the entertainment industry to reduce risk and promote opportunities for education, with further research in this area warranted.

Suicide and the media 2010

A critical review, Suicide in the News and Information Media, was conducted in 2010 and updated in 2018 to inform the development of resources for media and other sectors engaged by Mindframe.

The way in which suicide is reported appears to be particularly significant.

Evidence for media reporting contributing to an overall reduction in rates is generally lacking. There are some isolated studies suggesting reporting that frames suicide as a tragic waste and an avoidable loss, and focuses on the devastating impact on others, has been linked to reduced rates of suicide.

Media Monitoring Projects

Two large-scale Media Monitoring Projects have been conducted in Australia, providing information about the way Australian news media report and reference suicide and self-harm.

Both studies have a mix of quantitative and qualitative components, with the studies collecting media items on suicide over two 12 month terms.

The first study between, 2000 - 2001, was prior to the introduction of Mindframe. This study established a baseline on the quality and quantity of media reporting of suicide in Australia, looking at future opportunities.

Between 2006 - 2007, a second study involved a systematic investigation of whether there had been changes in the extent, nature and quality of reporting of suicide since media guidelines and codes of practice were implemented and governed.

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