In Summary
  • The risk of suicide contagion increases when a suicide story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic headlines, sensationalises, or glamorises the suicide.
  • Media should not explicitly describe the method used, provide details about the site or location of the suicide, or use sensational headlines.

The Education ministry is concerned with the rising number of suicides among university students.

A report covering the past three years, released by the ministry, says that public universities record at least five deaths each month.

There is also anecdotal evidence that suicides among the general population are on the rise as indicated by police annual crime reports and frequent newspaper stories about suicide or suicide attempts.

The National Police Service’s Annual Crime Report 2016 — the latest publicly available — recorded 356 cases of suicide in 2016, an increase of 11.25 percent over the 2015 figures.

A 2018 economic survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that some 421 suicide cases were reported last year.

MEDIA

The question is why suicide rates are apparently increasing. Experts believe suicide is often the outcome of different causes, including mental illness and depression.

What is of interest to us are the findings by experts that the way the media report suicide stories may contribute to suicide rates.

Way back in June, Tim Tororey wrote to say he was upset by NMG reports on suicides.

“I have read screaming headlines and watched NTV lead with a suicide story — very disheartening journalism,” he said.

“I hope the Nation Media house can lead by adjusting their reportage as suicide is a complex story whose outcome is saddening to all.”

It’s true that research studies worldwide have found the way the media report suicide can inspire copycat suicides.

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