Deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade spur suicide prevention efforts

Many organizations are sharing ways people can help others who might contemplate taking their lives. Others have asked reporters to help stop it from spreading.

Recent celebrity deaths are sparking conversations about suicide prevention and mental health resources.

On Friday, news outlets reported that Anthony Bourdain died by suicide.

CNN reported:

“It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain,” the network said in a statement Friday morning. “His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”

Bourdain’s death follows the passing of designer Kate Spade, who died by suicide on Tuesday, and Swedish musician Tim Bergling (known as Avicii), who died by suicide on April 20.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that suicide rates have risen almost 30 percent since 1999. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in the United States—and more than half (54 percent) of those were not known to have mental health conditions.

Many individuals and organizations are looking to change those statistics and cope with the recent losses through sharing resources via social media—while others are calling for journalists to be more responsible when publishing news of suicide.

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Resources, guides and stories on Twitter

As memorials for Bourdain poured in via news headlines and social media platforms, many Twitter users used the trending hashtag #suicide to share numbers of prevention hotlines and links to mental health assistance.

Some shared those numbers alongside stories of their own struggles with mental illness, such as comedian Patton Oswalt:

Twitter users outside the United States also tweeted under the hashtag:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline tweeted after the deaths of both Bourdain and Spade:

On Friday, National Alliance on Mental Illness tweeted:

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention tweeted:

Other organizations, such as University of Michigan Health and Mental Health First Aid, tweeted articles and infographics that listed signs of suicidal behavior:

Mayo Clinic tweeted advice on how to intervene when someone makes suicidal comments:

Beyond tweets with hotline numbers and infographics of instructions and resources, some organizations are using the recent celebrity deaths to support mental health initiatives.

Billboard reported on a few efforts in the music scene:

Mental-health support for fans themselves has also emerged as an extension of harm-reduction initiatives. Electric Daisy Carnival promoter Insomniac has integrated onsite support for fans in the form of Project #OpenTalk, a collaboration between the Drug Policy Alliance, Healthy Nightlife, and Zendo Project; a separate partnership with mental health non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms; and the promoter’s own health and safety support group, Ground Control.

This year at EDC, Insomniac also partnered with MusiCares to offer free custom-fitted ear plugs for anyone performing at the festival or working in the music industry. (Tinnitus is a troublingly common occupational hazard for DJs and production staff and is considered to be a contributor to mental health problems for those working in the music industry.)

Making a difference with reporting guidelines

Several social media users have lashed out at members of the news media for sensationalizing the recent deaths by suicide.

Vox reported:

When someone struggling with mental health is suffering and knows that someone like them responded to that suffering by killing themselves, it puts death on the table. Media contagion research shows a dose effect: the more exposure to media reporting of suicide, including the number of articles and the prominence of the death, the greater the copycat effect.

Changing the way a suicide is reported in the press can reduce suicides. In 1989, a national conference of suicidologists, psychologists, and journalists pooled their knowledge and came up with a set of media guidelines for reporting on suicide, the goal being to keep vulnerable people alive.

Some rules were straightforward: Don’t mention “suicide” in the headline. Don’t mention the method of suicide in the headline, and avoid a detailed description of the method in the article. Others were more subjective: Don’t “glorify” the act; don’t engage in “excessive” reporting of the suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the guidelines.

The AP Stylebook’s entry on “suicide” reads, in part:

… Suicide stories, when written, should not go into detail on methods used.

Avoid using committed suicide except in direct quotations from authorities. Alternate phrases include killed himself,took her own life or died by suicide. The verb commit with suicide can imply a criminal act. Laws against suicide have been repealed in the United States and many other places.

Do not refer to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Refer instead to an attempted suicide.

After Spade’s death, The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention released a statement asking members of the news media to take care when reporting suicides. It read, in part:

We urge all members of the media (writers, producers, editors, etc.) working on these stories about Kate Spade or other related stories about suicide to refer to the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide for best practices for safely and accurately reporting on suicide.

The organization’s guidelines include these suggestions:

  • Inform readers without sensationalizing the suicide.
  • Include a sidebar that lists warning signs and tips for what to do for a suicidal person.
  • Include the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • Avoid misinformation, but note that mental disorders are treatable.
  • Avoid reporting that suicide was preceded by a single event, including a divorce or loss of a job.
  • Omitting the terms “successful” or “failed attempt,” but instead using AP style’s recommended “died by suicide” or “killed him/herself.”

Reportingonsuicide.org offers a more detailed guide of recommendations for reporting deaths by suicide, which include not reporting the method used. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers reporters and other communicators fact sheets and suicide statistics to help with media coverage, as well.

(image via)

Topics: PR

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