Suicide and the media. Part III: Theoretical issues

Crisis. 2001;22(4):163-9. doi: 10.1027//0227-5910.22.4.163.


The body of evidence suggests that there is a causal association between nonfictional media reporting of suicide (in newspapers, on television, and in books) and actual suicide, and that there may be one between fictional media portrayal (in film and television, in music, and in plays) and actual suicide. This finding has been explained by social learning theory. The majority of studies upon which this finding is based fall into the media "effects tradition," which has been criticized for its positivist-like approach that fails to take into account of media content or the capacity of audiences to make meaning out of messages. A cultural studies approach that relies on discourse and frame analyses to explore meanings, and that qualitatively examines the multiple meanings that audiences give to media messages, could complement the effects tradition. Together, these approaches have the potential to clarify the notion of what constitutes responsible reporting of suicide, and to broaden the framework for evaluating media performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mass Media*
  • Suicide*
  • Systems Theory*