A Content Analysis and Comparison of Two Peaks of Newspaper Reporting During a Suicide Cluster to Examine Implications for Imitation, Suggestion, and Prevention.
Marchant A., Brown M., Scourfield J., Hawton K., Cleobury L., Dennis M., Lloyd K., McGregor J., John A.
Background: During 2007-2008, media attention focused on a cluster of youth suicides in the UK. There were two peaks (P1, P2) in the volume of newspaper reporting of the deaths. The number of possible suicides was greater than expected at the time of the first peak but not at the time of the second. Aims: To explore any differences in the content of the reporting peaks and to consider implications for imitation and prevention. Method: A content analysis of two peaks of newspaper reporting was conducted. Results: There were 204 articles in P1 (December 27, 2007 to February 19, 2008) and 157 in P2 (February 20, 2008 to March 15, 2008). Four main themes were identified: individual stories; possible causes; features of reporting of the cluster; and educating and informing the public. P1 articles more frequently contained: explicit details of method; photographs of the deceased, and contained more characterization of individuals. Limitations: The focus was on print media, future studies should incorporate online and social media content. Conclusion: The findings provide some support for the hypothesis of a process of suggestion initiated by sensationalist reporting in P1. This contributes to the evidence base of the role of the press in suicide imitation and prevention, highlighting the importance of care when reporting suicides.