I’m skeptical about studies in general. Many prove what they set out to prove. Then there is the factor of who undertook the study in the first place. What’s in it for them? The old murder mystery advice of ‘follow the money’ comes to mind.
I’ve worked thousands of night shifts throughout my career. Many of them have been on nights with full moons. Many of my coworkers believe that crazy things happen in the light of the full moon. This is purely anecdotal though, as ‘studies’ don’t support their beliefs. But then again, some likely do!
Media coverage of high profile suicides can have mixed results. On one hand, it likely does increase the thoughts of ‘ending it all’ in those who are already experiencing self-destructive thoughts. It can raise or intensify the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The thoughts of “If that person, who has everything [in reference to the personality’s perceived fame and fortune] chose to take their life, then why should I bother going on?”
When a person is experiencing suicidal ideation, their mind is not working in a logical manner. It can be like a large, black cloud is shadowing their rational thought processes. Even trying to show them the fallacy of their rationale can be challenging. Many don’t want to hear it. Yet, many do. And that is why we need to support them in their time of need.
Conversely, it can be argued that media coverage of high profile suicides has had positive effects in that it raises awareness of suicide and gets people talking about the subject.
While the general public may be coming more aware, there is still a taboo in our society about thinking or acting upon suicidal urges. I would expect that our egos are heavily involved as they serve as a protective measure. I have read statistics recently that many successful suicides have occurred after some fifteen or so unsuccessful attempts. Then there are those that seem to come out of the blue and surprise everyone.
We can’t truly know what goes on in the mind of another. Each of us have multiple personas. We may be putting on a brave face to the public, yet to ourselves we are hurting inside.
Another aspect that comes into play in the increase of suicidal rate, I believe, is the effect that television and video games have on many people. I don’t have ready access to the statistics, but I have read that by the time a person reaches adult hood [North American reference] they have witnessed some twenty to thirty thousand deaths via mass media. This includes actual deaths as reported on the news, as well as fictional deaths in TV shows, videos etc. Compound this with video games that support first-person shooters and you end up with a society that has been desensitized with the concept of death.
To many people, the concept of suicide can be merely one of going to sleep and never waking up. They falsely believe that the world would be better off without them.
Personally, when I learn about a high-profile suicide and watch the media coverage, my immediate thought is often ‘what a waste of human potential.’ At the same time, I don’t give their celebrity status extra points. I don’t believe that they are any better, or worse, than anybody else in my circle of connections. Or myself, for that matter.
At times like this, we need to have conversations about suicide, without being judgmental and factoring in religious beliefs. And we need to be aware of those in our personal network that we may have influence to be able to support them in their crisis.
While not being particularly religious, I always go with the thought of “there, for the grace of God … go I!”