Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Celebrity Suicide Prompts Copycats

Media Coverage of Suicide Also Affects Suicide Attempts

WebMD Health News

March 20, 2003 -- Media reports about celebrity suicides are 14 times more likely to prompt copycat suicides than other types of stories, according to a new study that also shows the type of media coverage suicide receives can have a major impact on copycat effects.

Researchers found the more coverage a suicide received in the media, the more likely a copycat effect was found. But there were big differences according to the type of media outlet.

For example, televised stories on suicide were 82% less likely to produce a copycat effect or surge in suicide rates than newspaper articles.

"Unlike televised suicide stories, newspaper suicide stories can be saved, reread, displayed on one's wall or mirror, and studied," writes researcher Steven Stack, PhD, of the department of criminal justice at Wayne State University in Detroit. "Television-based stories on suicide typically last less than 20 seconds and can be quickly forgotten or even unnoticed."

The study analyzed 42 previously published reports on the impact of publicized suicide stories in the media on suicide rates worldwide.

It found that studies that looked at the effect of either an entertainment or political celebrity suicide were 14.3 times more likely to find a copycat suicide effect than others. But studies that looked at stories on real-life suicides (as opposed to fictional suicides) were only four times more likely to discover a copycat effect.

Stack says that stories about celebrity suicides, such as Marilyn Monroe, spark a greater degree of identification than stories about the suicide of other people. According to one theory, a suicidal person may read a story about a celebrity suicide and think, "if a person with fame and fortune cannot endure life, why should I?"

Researchers say recent efforts in Austria and Switzerland show that changes in the quality and quantity of media coverage of suicides can also have an impact on reducing copycat effects. These campaigns suggest that reducing the overall amount of press coverage of celebrity suicide or that of others is the most influential factor in preventing copycat suicides.

SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, April 2003.


Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections