I’m not a mental health professional by any means, I’m not an epidemiologist, nor am I a journalist. What I am, however, is someone who uses my psychology bachelor’s degree to keep up on research the best I can. I am also someone who lives with a mental illness and has been, at numerous times in the past, on the brink of suicide. That is why I’m talking once again about the media’s mistakes in regards to suicide reporting.
Lately my news feed recommend article after article about Tara Condell’s suicide. Who is Tara Condell and why was her death news? Tara was a dietitian living in New York who decided to end her own life; only after posting a suicide note on her website. I suppose someone who saw the note shared the link with a journalist, or maybe her friends and family shared the link until it eventually became a news story.
Tara’s suicide, along with the 47,173 suicides and the 1,400,000 suicide attempts in the US last year is absolutely a tragedy (statistics from AFSP). It is something to be mourned, but not something to be publicized. I realize by writing this at all I too am bringing attention to her tragic death, but I am attempting to do so without glamorizing it.
I originally ignored the suggested reading from Google, but when after days, Google was still recommending this as something to read about, I gave in. I was disappointed that I was not surprised by the way this was reported. Of course, the media has every right to report what they want, but a responsible media should not glorify this or any single person’s suicide.
There were quotes from her letter, along with positive comments about her and her life. There was graphic detail of how she chose to end her life, and photos of her smiling, seemingly enjoying herself.
I have written in the past about how there is absolutely a wrong way to report suicide. Wrong because it has been shown to contribute to the suicide contagion (this is a link to the CDC’s reporting recommendations). This case is showing that someone can become “famous” through suicide. Whether or not this is true (and for the other roughly 47,000 last year, it’s not) it may make the act all the more tempting for some.
When I broke down and read about this death I was triggered and intrigued despite my best intentions to stay neutral. These are the two main dangers that something like this can cause and I experienced both. I was having a good day aside from this, and was able to push it aside and put my advocate hat on. However, my point is that I knew the dangers going in and was still negatively effected. I have years of therapy, a cocktail of medications, and the had knowledge that this may be triggering. Not everyone has all of those benefits. I really hope that this doesn’t cause an increase in suicide attempts and deaths; but I can see first hand what the risk is.