OPINION – They were on the way home from a religious gathering, mother sitting in the back seat, when at the bridge, daughter tells the hired driver to stop the car, quickly unbuckles, gets out and throws herself over the railing. This was on Thursday. The day before another woman had jumped off from the same bridge. The day before that a young man of 17 took his life falling from a 13 storey building.
Three people this week took their lives in terribly heartbreaking circumstances for their families and friends.
Two of the events, for being tied to families with money and/or the farandula (entertainment), were sensationalized by the ‘yellow journalism” media, including publishing gruesome photos; in one case an amateur video of the woman going over the bridge.
Is this really news?
The Ministry of Health on Friday asked the media in the country “to be responsible in its coverage” of suicides. “The management of information and its dissemination on the issue of suicide is addressed in conjunction with the Association of Journalists of Costa Rica, to create access mechanisms that promote ethical and responsible news coverage in the comprehensive approach of suicidal behavior,” said the statement.
The “Werther effect“, a popular term for an increase in suicides after a widely publicized suicide. It is also known as the “copycat effect” or “suicide contagion”, where the well-known suicide serves as a model, in the absence of protective factors, for the next suicide.
To prevent this type of suicide, media coverage of suicides should be discouraged. Copycat suicides are a real problem, but suicide experts generally agree that it’s not a question of whether media should cover suicide, but how it does so.
In each case there is pain. Anguish. What does it serve publicizing information that would cause further anguish the family and friends of the victim?