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Newspaper reports of suicide: The impact of newsworthiness


Pridmore, S and Patterson, T and Bruno, RB, Newspaper reports of suicide: The impact of newsworthiness, German Journal of Psychiatry, 9, (2006) pp. 97-100. ISSN 1433-1055 (2006) [Refereed Article]


Aim: To characterize (by age and gender) individuals who suicide (IWS) and their circumstances (presence or absence of mental disorder and stress), as reported in the lay press, and to examine for evidence of newsworthiness on reportage. Method: Newspaper reports were prospectively collected over a 1O year period (mid 1995 to mid 2005). Age, gender, life circumstances and domicile were extracted, collated and compared. Results: Sixty one reports of IWS were detected. The average age wax 45 years and IWS were predominantly male (83%). Mental disorder was present in 20%, stress in 70% and neither were present in 15%. There was a significant difference between the proportion with stressors and the proportion with mental disorder. In all sub-categories (IWS living outside and inside Tarmania, and IWS whose suicide was preceded and not preceded by the killing of others), stress was more frequently present than was mental illness, although these observed differences did not reach criteria for statistical significance. Comparing the IWS who lived outside Tasmania with those who lived inside the state, those who lived outside were significantly more frequently male (90%, 50%) and less frequently suffered mental disorder (16%, 50%), with statistically non-significant differences in age (46 years, 43 years), and stress (73%, 50%). These differences were more marked when IWS who killed others before themselves were excluded. In addition, there were nine reports of increased suicide rates in particular geographic regions and clusters of suicides in identified groups. The evidence indicated that stress was an important factor in these events. Nine (15%) of IWS were in legal difficulties as perpetrators of child pornography or child sexual offences. Conclusions: Newsworthiness (prominence, notoriety and domicile of IWS, and the prior killing of others) influenced the newspaper reportage of suicide. Stress was identified as an important suicide trigger.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Mental health services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Pridmore, S (Professor Saxby Pridmore)
UTAS Author:Bruno, RB (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
ID Code:40129
Year Published:2006
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2006-08-01
Last Modified:2007-04-25

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