Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Suicide: Risks of Reporting: A Delicate Tension Exists between Noting an Increase in Reports of Gay Youth Suicides and a Fear That Doing So Will Increase Attempts

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Suicide: Risks of Reporting: A Delicate Tension Exists between Noting an Increase in Reports of Gay Youth Suicides and a Fear That Doing So Will Increase Attempts

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

STORIES ON CABLE AND NETWORK NEWS, articles in The New York Times, a cover of People magazine--the story of the suicides of nine LGBT teens (as of this writing) dominated the news media in the fall. Because many of the deaths were related to antigay bullying and harassment, the moment seemed to be a teachable one--the appropriate opportunity for prevention and antibullying advocates to bring these issues to the public's attention. Instead, the news coverage is itself a cause for concern for some. Media reports can have the opposite of the intended prevention effect, says Ann Haas, the director of prevention projects at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"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. …

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