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Study: Newspaper Reports Of Suicides Linked With Some Teen Suicide Clusters

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A teenager mourns. (credit: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

A teenager mourns. (credit: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, newspaper reports of suicides may have an impact on the initiation of some teenage suicide clusters.

The study said that the content of the media reports is important, with front page suicide stories and those describing the suicide in more detail are more likely to lead to copycat suicides.

“Our findings indicate that the more sensational the coverage of the suicides, and the more details the story provides, then the more likely there are to be more suicides,” Dr. Madelyn Gould from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and lead author of the study, told e! Science News.

Researchers analyzed 48 suicide clusters of people between 13 and 20 years old from across the United States between 1988 and 1996.  The data showed that each cluster included three to 11 victims who killed themselves within 6 months of the first suicide.

Researchers matched the cluster with the community to see if suicides of similar aged people occurred. The researchers looked through 469 newspaper articles for stories about suicide.

Researchers found that more newspapers stories about suicides were published after the first suicides — an average of almost 8 more stories, than a suicide that was not part of a cluster.

“Although we cannot show causality, out study indicates that media portrayals of suicide might have a role in the emergence of some teenage suicide clusters,” Dr. Gould added. “The findings constitutes the first available information on the circumstances differentiating a suicide that leads to a suicide cluster from one that does not. Our research also emphasizes the importance of adherence to media guidelines that discourage reporters from using too much detailed or graphic representations of suicide.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, and that among 15-to-24-year old, suicide accounts for 20 percent of all deaths annually. The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, and suicide attempts is significantly higher among young adults than adults over age 30.

The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

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