A Media and Psychology Perspective to the News on Suicide

The psychological infrastructure of suicide and the reflection of suicide news on the media were discussed in the event titled "Solution-Oriented Approach: Media, Women and Psychology Suicide News" organized by Üsküdar University Institute of Social Sciences and ÜSÇÖZÜM. Director of Corporate Communications at Üsküdar University and Editor-in-Chief of PsikoHayat Journal Tahsin Aksu, who took part as a speaker, emphasized that the media failed in publishing suicide news and that a new law should be introduced regarding the new media İn the program moderated by ÜSÇÖZÜM Director Assoc. Aylin Tutgun Ünal. The other speaker of the event, Psychiatrist Assoc. Prof. Barış Önen Ünsalver pointed out that suicide can be contagious with the posts on the Internet.

“Media is failing in suicide news”

Tahsin Aksu expressed the following statement in his presentation titled "The Challenge of the Turkish Media by Suicide:

“Most of the time, our media does not get a passing grade when it comes to suicide and its challange. The way the news is presented and the photographs used fall outside some criteria. However, it is necessary to be very careful when sharing suicide news. Every 40 minutes, 1 person dies in the world. Therefore, when suicide rate is so high, it ceases to be newsworthy. What is important here is not the way suicide occurs, but that we should focus on the causes of the suicide. Turkish people are very curious about the phenomenon of suicide, they like to follow these attempts. These stories get a huge circulation. However, such news does not provide any benefit, on the contrary, it is encouraging. This type of news continues to be made with the concern of ratings. When I was working for Milliyet Newspaper in the 2000s, we made a policy decision not to publish such news.”

 “Details should not be given on the suicide news”

Aksu stated that only the suicides of political or famous people that concern the public and suicide cases of criminal importance can be reported according to the decision taken by the Turkish Journalists Association and added: “Even in such exceptional cases, encouraging details about the method of suicide, the photography and the message of the suicide should not be given. These decisions are very important, but unfortunately, we see that these decisions are not implemented in the Turkish press. Some suicide cases should be done for the purpose of informing the society. For example, there may be a computer game behind the suicide. Such news should be made to inform families and prevent it from happening again. Mass suicides are among the cases whose causes should definitely be investigated and the society should be informed.”.

“Law on new media should be introduced”

Expressing that today's problem is postmodern suicides, Aksu said: “Today, suicide messages are announced on social media. This situation exceeds traditional media and spreads uncontrollably on social media. An example of this was a METU graduate announcing his suicide on social media. This event took place in 2014, but the videos uploaded to YouTube are very new and reach thousands of people every day. I think that a new media law should be introduced in this regard.”.

 “The risk of suicide is higher in depression”

Speaking about the concept of suicide, Psychiatrist Assoc. Prof. Barış Önen Ünsalver said “Suicide is a suicide. The person with suicidal thoughts thinks about killing themselves and makes plans. Suicide often does not result in death. Suicide is a public health, world health problem. A mind that thinks about suicide is a mind that feels dark, helpless. 90% of suicides are due to psychiatric disorders. It is not dangerous to openly discuss suicidal thoughts with a specialist. On the contrary, it needs to be talked about and to be overcome. Many disorders can cause suicidal thoughts. The risk of suicide is much higher in depression than in other disorders.”

“Suicide can be contagious with the posts on the Internet”

Emphasizing that the post-suicide process was very difficult for the relatives of the person, Ünsalver explained that the rate of suicide of the people left behind has increased. Ünsalver said: “Especially adolescents or young adults also tend to commit suicide when a relative commits suicide. Suicide can happen through imitation, influence and depression. Suicide can also be contagious through the posts on the internet. Similar suicides took place after Goethe's book ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, which were influenced by the book. Certain occupational groups can be affected by each other's suicides. For example, there was an increase in physicians’ suicides after the news of a physician who committed suicide because of exhaustion.”.

 “Those who think about suicide read this kind of news”

Explaining that the media affects suicides, Ünsalver said: “There are suicides that happen due to the news. People with psychiatric disorders may see this news in the media as a solution. According to the Identification Theory, people who have the same characteristics as the person who committed suicide think about committing suicide as a result of such news. It is said that the effect of the news will last for a week at most, but with the opportunity to access the news online, its effects can last for a very long time. Before committing suicide, people read the news about suicide and search for other methods of suicide. Sharing images in the media and making news in more than one place can encourage suicide. The more drama and sensation there are, the more people identify with themselves.”.

 “The reason for suicide should not be blamed on institutions”

Noting that people do not commit suicide for simple reasons, Ünsalver emphasized that there are personal reasons behind the suicides. Ünsalver said: “Suicide is not a problem due to governments, television, economies and so on. Criminals should not be created in the media in order for institutions to be respected and to be able to help these people. Accusations should not be directed at certain people and institutions.”.

“We must use the media constructively”

Emphasizing that movies and songs can make suicide romantic and enviable, Ünsalver emphasized that the media should be used constructively. Ünsalver said: “People can be discouraged about suicide by strengthening social support networks. On the media, news can be presented with educational information in a simple and informative way without mentioning the method, without making suicide romantic. In the news, it can be mentioned about the institutions that people with suicidal thoughts can apply.”.

Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)