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May 29, 2019

Media Portrayals and Public Health Implications for Suicide and Other Behaviors

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Human Flourishing Program, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Quantitative Sciences Unit, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(9):891-892. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0842

Accounts of contagion in suicide abound. For example, Émile Durkheim’s 1897 book Suicide: A Study in Sociology1 documents multiple striking incidents. We might wonder then whether such contagion extends also to the portrayal of suicide in the media. The evidence is mixed.2,3 A recent meta-analysis by Ferguson concluded that “evidence is not able to support the contention that fictional depictions of suicide lead to suicide contagion in viewers.”2(p7-8)