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SRINAGAR — Irresponsible media reporting is one of the main reasons behind suicide contagion in Jammu & Kashmir, according to an expert, who has called for giving the least space to such acts so as to minimize the cases.

The media must behave responsibly while reporting suicide, Dr. Yasir Hassan Rather, Professor, Department of Psychiatry (IMHANS), GMC Srinagar, said while talking to the news agency KNO.

Suicide contagion

Dr. Yasir explained “suicide contagion” – an exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors through irresponsible media reports which can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors.

The risk for suicide contagion as a result of media reporting can be minimized by factual and concise media reports of suicide, Dr. Yasir said, adding that the reports of suicide should not be repetitive as prolonged exposure can increase the likelihood of suicide contagion.

Explaining further, the doctor said, “Suicide is the result of many complex factors; therefore media coverage should not report oversimplified explanations such as recent negative life events or acute stressors and reports should not divulge detailed descriptions of the method used to avoid possible duplication besides that reports should not glorify the victim and should not imply that suicide was effective in achieving a personal goal such as gaining media attention.”

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“Suicide cases shouldn’t come in limelight, it shouldn’t be given front page space, and suicide word should be avoided in the headline,” he said. “Unfortunately, social media usage has popularised the act of suicide both directly and indirectly, from its means of information sharing to the influence and consequences it has on emotional health.”

Copycat suicide

He said that reports are made on how, where, when and through what conditions a person, who committed suicide, was going, and those persons who are going through the same condition have suicidal thoughts and this is the way and solution for him which is known as copycat suicide.

There are some other factors like unemployment, social, economic, and financial stress responsible for suicide or suicidal thoughts and the need of the hour is to help such persons, the doctor said.

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“Around 90 percent of suicidal cases have underlying depression and other mental health issues and so it needs medical intervention,” he said, adding that anyone having suicidal thoughts may get help from the government helpline Tele manas helpline number (18008914416) which is available 24×7.

What should be avoided?

The language that sensationalizes or normalizes suicide; photographs or video footage of the scenes of the place or the method; pictures of the deceased; sharing of suicide notes, and videos made before suicide as these may trigger mental health issues in many people.

Dr. Yasir said suicide is not a result of a single factor or event. He said mental health illnesses are a strong predictor of suicide and mental disorders such as depression and substance use may influence an individual’s ability to cope with life stressors and interpersonal conflicts.

Media should not glamourize suicide but rather provide information about mental health professionals and helpline numbers, he said. “Responsible journalism on suicide can prevent such cases to a large extent.”

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