Experts fear copycat suicides after bullying cases in headlines

Posted by on November 22, 2010

Suicide experts are increasingly speaking out about concerns that national media and political hysteria about teen suicides associated with bullying risk contributing to a suicide contagion.

The latest concerns are voiced in a November 11th Associated Press story entitled, “Experts fear copycat suicides after bullying cases.”

“They may see this as a somewhat glamorous ending — that the youth got lots of attention, lots of sympathy, lots of national concern that they never got in life,” said Anara Guard, a senior adviser at the Boston-based Suicide Prevention Resource Center. “The second possible factor is that vulnerable youth may feel like, ‘If they couldn’t cut it, neither can I.'”

One expert, Ann Haas of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, noted that with the Internet, it is harder to track contagion due to the lack of geographical boundaries with today’s technology.

Did the Media, Special Interests, and Political Opportunists Risk Contagion?

I raised the issue a couple months ago when traditional and social media buzz went off the deep-end on bullying, “bullycide,” and teen suicides.  The heightened hype was largely fueled by gay rights and civil rights advocates using high-profile teen suicides of alleged LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) youth to further their political advocacy campaigns for new federal civil rights laws promoted as anti-bullying laws. 

Politicians, especially from Congress all the way up to Hillary Clinton and  President Obama, also jumped blindly into the fray with no apparent consideration of the contagion effect risk.  And the U.S. Department of Education apparently never heard of, or failed to consider, the contagion effect as Secretary Duncan and his Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools liberally tossed around the teen suicides as part of their bullying bandwagon campaign.

Future Caution and Contagion Consideration Needed

This raises the question, “How many, if any, of the teen suicides were influenced by contagion?”   And that, we’ll probably never know…

Slowly, the rational and cognitive voices of reason are finally breaking through to provide some reasonable context and common sense to the conversation.  Hopefully the media, activists, and political opportunists will take a closer look at the contagion stories and be more cautious in their future public discourse.  

Ken Trump

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