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Suicide Reporting May Cause Contagion

December 7, 2010

Struggling Youth


“We need to be careful in the way that we talk about these cases,” Haas says. “Notoriety about suicides can be a factor in what we call ‘contagion.’ The messages becomes that suicide is a normal response to a terrible experience.” Prevention experts warn that contagion can actually increase the number of incidents.

While there is no indication that any of the recent bullying-related teen suicides—which took place across the country—were related to each other, Haas references “clusters,” one of which took place in 2001 near her home in Maine.

“The youth who first committed suicide was described in a very positive way [by the media]. There was a lot of attention,” Haas says. “In the next 18 months, there were five additional suicides.”

Another difficulty stems from the lack of conclusive data with regard to LGBT people. The AFSP reports that approximately 345 Americans ages 15 to 24 take their own lives per month. A common assumption that often finds its way into reporting is that gays commit suicide in greater numbers. While some respected studies indicate gay youths are more likely to make the attempt, no trustworthy evidence yet exists that shows gay youths kill themselves at a higher rate than their straight peers. Some conclusions may come to light in January, when an expert consensus report on LGBT suicide will be published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

via Suicide: Risks of Reporting | Advance | The Advocate.

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