A Qualitative Analysis of Self-Harm and Suicide in Sri Lankan Printed Newspapers.
Brandt Sørensen J., Pearson M., Armstrong G., Andersen MW., Weerasinghe M., Hawton K., Konradsen F.
Background: Media reporting may influence suicidal behavior. In-depth exploration of how self-harm and suicide are portrayed in newspaper articles in a middle-income country such as Sri Lanka is lacking. Aims: We aimed to explore how self-harm and suicide are portrayed in Sri Lankan printed newspapers. Method: Seven English- and Sinhala-language Sri Lankan newspapers were screened for articles reporting on self-harm and suicide (December 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015). A thematic analysis was conducted. Results: In the 78 articles identified for analysis, certain aspects were overemphasized (inappropriate behavior) and others underemphasized (alcohol and complexities of self-harm). Explanations of self-harm were one-sided and a suicide prevention narrative was lacking. Limitations: Another time-frame and inclusion of Tamil newspapers as well as social media and online publications would provide additional understanding. Conclusion: The study found an indication of simplistic reporting. Greater focus on prevention and a nuanced portrayal of self-harm could reduce stigma and imitative behavior.