The impact of media coverage of the suicide of a well-known Quebec reporter: the case of Gaëtan Girouard

Soc Sci Med. 2005 May;60(9):1919-26. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.08.054. Epub 2004 Dec 8.


Evidence of a media impact on suicide is mixed and needs further research. The main objective of this article is to document the effects of the media coverage following the suicide of a well-known and popular television reporter in Quebec, Canada. A content analysis of the printed media and an analysis of suicide rates during the following year, of coroners' records and of calls to Suicide Prevention Centres during the following 3 months was conducted. Most guidelines for responsible reporting of a suicide were not applied. The results showed a rise in the suicides rates immediately after the reporter's suicide, especially by hanging as in the original case. A cluster of six suicides by hanging also took place in the small municipality where the reporter's suicide occurred. There was also an indication of direct influence in the coroners' records and a rise in calls to Suicide Prevention Centres. This research indicates that the reporting of the suicide of a popular figure preceded an important rise in the number of suicides. A possible theoretical explanation is that a positive role model appeared to suddenly fail to cope with life, thus creating high distress and cognitive dissonance in the audience. The news media should apply more caution and follow recommended guidelines in reporting this type of news.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Famous Persons*
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • History, 21st Century
  • Hotlines / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Journalism / history
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quebec
  • Suicide / history
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide Prevention*

Personal name as subject

  • Gaëtan Girouard