Two days ago, the media was abuzz after 22 year-old YouTube star Logan Paul came under fire for posting a video of an apparent suicide victim in Japan’s “suicide forest," at Aokigahara.
Not only did Logan Paul film the body of the suicide victim, he appeared on video laughing and bragging about it, saying "This definitely marks a moment in YouTube history," Because I’m pretty sure that this has never hopefully happened to anyone on YouTube ever." The video was blasted out to over six million of his young YouTube followers.
Paul, has built a digital empire with his onscreen antics that attract more than 5 million views from youths all over the world. According to Forbes Magazine, his antics earn him $12.5 million from advertising spots, merchandise sales and other sources of revenue.
Paul’s suicide video was reprehensible. Showing a video of a suicide victim is not only horrible to view, but it is disrespectful to the families of the deceased and gives kids ideas. He made public apologies but the damage is done.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 34 year olds, according to the Center for Disease Control. It was the cause of about 6,078 deaths in a year in the 15 to 24 age group.
Bullied victims are 7 to 9 per cent more likely to consider suicide according to a study by Yale University. Studies in Britain have found half of the suicides among youth related to bullying.
Media reports often link bullying with suicide. Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history. This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools.
We don’t know if bullying directly causes suicide-related behavior. What we do know is that the majority of these cluster suicides that are blamed on bullying come from contagion behavior.
Publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly and definitively linked to a subsequent increase in suicide, especially among young people. Research suggests that at least 5 percent of youth suicides are influenced by contagion behavior.
People who kill themselves are already vulnerable, but publicity around another suicide suggests that suicide “outbreaks” and “clusters” are real phenomena; one death can set off others.
It’s tough enough when the media reports child and teen suicides, but when the reports describe what methods were used, it gives kids ideas.
When you’re a kid and you’re being bullied or have mental health issues, the torment can be unbearable. Youths’ brains are not mature enough to understand the gravity and finality of suicide. Youth only know today, never realizing that tomorrow really won’t come.
Recently there was a cluster of youth suicides blamed on bullying. In December, 2017 alone, there were at least five known suicides blamed on bullying. The youngest victim was 8 years-old.
Any publicity involving youth suicides and the methods used creates media buzz. And when you have a social media influencer videotaping a suicide victim, one can only wonder how many kids who are in pain to begin with get ideas.
It behooves all of us, the media and social media influencers to think about the suicides we hear about. Is it necessary to publicize every detail? What about the pain it causes to the family of the suicide victim?
Suicide prevention advocates have developed guidelines for news media coverage of suicide deaths. The guidelines have been shown to make a difference: A study in Vienna documented a significant drop in suicide risk when reporters began adhering to recommendations for coverage.
The idea is to avoid emphasizing or glamorizing suicide, or to make it seem like a simple or inevitable solution for people who are at risk. As in the Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’ glamorized suicide, the show communicates to teens that if you are lost and not heard, your story will be heard after you’ve left this world.
It’s time for a change in how suicides are reported. Yes, we must raise awareness of the issue to educate our youth and others who are at-risk, but to mock or glamorize the act of suicide is irresponsible and devastating to the loved ones of the deceased.