This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “Why the holiday suicide
myth persists” by Kim Painter.
Here are some excerpts:
[begin excerpts]
For the past decade, Dan Romer, a researcher at the Annenberg Public
Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has been tracking
mentions of suicide and the holiday season in stories published in U.S.
newspapers from mid-November to mid-January.
His first study, covering the 1999 holiday season, found that just 23%
of stories debunked the myth and the rest reinforced it.
By 2006, 91% of stories debunked the myth, and Romer took some credit:
Publicizing the facts had nearly killed the myth, he thought.
He was wrong.
In the 2007 season, the myth was back in half of stories, he says.
And Romer just completed his analysis of 2008 holiday coverage.
He found that 38% of stories supported the myth and 62% debunked it – an
improvement he attributes partly to a myth-busting report published last
December in the British Medical Journal.
<snip>
But the myth may harm people instead.
“It might unnecessarily put people on their guard or increase their
anxiety,” says Ronald Pies, a psychiatrist at Tufts University School of
Medicine, via e-mail.
Worse, he says, some people “on the brink” of self-harm might feel
encouraged to follow through when they read or hear that holiday
suicides are common.
The myth might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Romer agrees: “You don’t want to convey the message that this is
acceptable or that there’s a good reason to do it.”
<snip>
But, experts say, suicide is almost always the act of someone who has
endured deep depression or another mental illness for months or years –
not someone with a passing case of the blues.
<snip>
Meanwhile, researchers continue to look for the real patterns in
suicidal behavior, says Alexander Crosby, a CDC researcher. “That can
help us in terms of finding protective factors,” he says.
And one protective factor, he says, is “connectiveness” – that is, how
connected people are to friends, families and communities.
[end excerpts]
The article is online at:
clipping courtesy of Ken Pope
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