The Effects of Publicized Suicide Deaths on Subsequent Suicide Counts in Israel

Shelly S. Bakst, Yakir Berchenko, Tali Braun, Tamy Shohat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigated associations between indiscriminate media reporting of suicides and later inflated suicide counts among Israel's general population between the years 2008 and 2012. Self-inflicted deaths that received post-suicide media exposure (referred to as “publicized suicides”) were selected via Google news search-hit appraisals. Distributions of suicides were inspected and risk ratios (RRs) estimated by comparing population suicide rates 4 weeks before and 4 weeks after each publicized suicide (“reference” vs. “affected” periods, respectively). Poisson time series regression was employed to account also for secular trends and seasonality. A total of 2,119 people died by suicide, 13 of whom received noticeable media attention throughout the study. No meaningful impact following the 13 deaths on subsequent suicide counts during the observation window (affected vs. reference phase) was found. Poisson regression confirmed that suicide counts following publicized suicides were independent of media coverage. Given the pronounced search hits following the publicized suicides developing regulation practices that constrain indiscreet media reporting should officially be included as part of suicide prevention practices. Future research should focus on imitation suicide effects as a function of post-suicide media exposure, while including both risk and protective factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-454
Number of pages15
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Google Trends
  • Werther effect
  • copycat suicide
  • media and suicide
  • suicide suggestion

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