Cohen and Hoffner (2016) describe how the parasocial attachment created between celebrities and their fans can become a public health risk when the celebrity dies by suicide. To the fans, the event can feel as if they have lost a close friend or family member. The public response to the news of a celebrity death can include digging for more information on the case and suicide in general, including both helpful and harmful searches (Arendt & Scherr, 2017). Russel (2014) states the news reporting, when done well, can increase awareness of underlying mental health conditions and encourage others to get help. However, media reporting on suicide also has led to suicide contagion, where suicide rates across the nation rise following the death of a celebrity (Sanger-Katz, 2014).
The embedded video clip (Dr. Phil, 2017) provides advice on how media outlets can responsibly report on suicide. The guidelines are to be used as best practices in media reporting, which can encourage viewers to get help if the story has an emotional impact on them. Media outlets need to be careful when reporting on celebrity suicides because poor reporting may contribute to others dying by suicide. Suicide and the underlying mental health conditions are public health issues that need to be taken seriously.
Arendt, F., & Scherr, S. (2017). The impact of a highly publicized celebrity suicide on suicide-related online information seeking. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 38(3), 207-209. Doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000455
Cohen, E. & Hoffner, C. (2016). Finding meaning in a celebrity’s death: The relationship between parasocial attachment, grief, and sharing educational health information related to Robin Williams on social network sites. Computers in Human Behavior, 65, 643-650. Doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.06.042
Dr. Phil (2017). 9 Things The Media Should Avoid When Reporting On Suicide [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKBqb64Wns4
Russell, J. (2014). Did Robin Williams open door to more suicides?” IndyStar.com. Retrieved from https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2014/08/12/death-robin-williams-help...
Sanger-Katz, M. (2014). The Science Behind Suicide Contagion. NYTimes.com. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/upshot/the-science-behind-suicide-con...