There’s a new blog making the rounds where a woman is suggesting she is going to take her own life in 90 days. We’re not going to link to it because we find it difficult to believe that someone who is seriously suicidal and intent on committing suicide would bother waiting 90 days to actually do it. (You can find it easily enough if you Google for the term.) 90 days would be an eternity for most people contemplating suicide.
But there’s a greater public health concern here, and it has nothing to do with guessing as to whether this person is “serious” or not… As with most things on the Internet, it should be taken with a grain of salt.
Research has shown that when a teenager or young adult commits suicide in a community and it makes the newspaper and local news media, it can lead to other suicide attempts. This is called “suicide contagion” and is a very real and well-documented phenomenon (see, for example, Romer, et. al., 2006). It is not limited geographically.
Intended or not, this blog is likely to contribute to an increase in the risk of suicide of people who learn about it. If the blog makes it to the mainstream media (and we’ve had reports where it seems increasingly likely that it will), we’re afraid of what the suicide contagion effects might be.
We call on Google, who owns the blogging platform where the blog is hosted (Blogger), to please consider the public health risk such a blog poses, and what kind of message they’re sending people by saying, “Hey, this is okay by us.” A person’s death should not be fodder for entertainment and there is no education value posed by the blog.
If this blog is not “real,” Google/Blogger should label it as such, to reduce the very real risk of the suicide contagion effect that this blog is likely to have on others who suffer from depression and hopelessness.
This isn’t just us talking. These would be consistent with the recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in their 1989 report entitled, “Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop.” By being cohorts in the publication of this blog, Google and Blogger are potentially glorifying suicide, presenting suicide as a tool for accomplishing certain ends, and reporting on “how-to” descriptions of suicide.
Romer, D., Jamieson, P.E. & Jamieson, K.H. (2006). Are news reports of suicide contagious? A stringent test in six U.S. cities. Journal of Communication, 56(2), pp. 253-270.