Some of the posts I’ve seen lately (particularly those about LGBTQ youth suicides), as well as the general way I’ve seen people on tumblr tending to talk about suicide, have seriously concerned me as potential causes of suicide contagion. 

Suicide contagion (or “copycat suicide”) refers to the phenomenon of a spike in suicides (or “suicide cluster”) that emulate an original “model” suicide, the details of which have been highly publicized without taking protective measures. 

In order to prevent this, most media outlets have guidelines to encourage the responsible coverage of suicide (in extreme cases, the mention of suicide is completely banned). Unfortunately, people posting on social media sites and blogs are not subject to the same guidelines and may not be aware of the potentially devastating impact that their actions could have. To help people discuss suicide in a responsible way, I’ve compiled a list of some of the factors that can cause suicide contagion.

Factors that can contribute to suicide contagion effect:

-glamorizing of the suicide or the deceased; implying that their death was purposeful, noble, or heroic in any way; (specific to LGBTQ people) turning the deceased into a martyr for the cause

-sharing details of the method of death (especially graphic or explicit details or photos)

-sharing photos of the death, funeral, or memorials

-quoting or sharing excerpts from or complete suicide notes

-implying that one specific event triggered a suicide; ignore the multitude of factors that contribute to suicide

-using dramatic, sensationalist or graphic language and images; repeated discussion or coverage of a suicide

-presenting suicide as a viable, valid, or liberating option 

-referring to a suicide as successful/failed rather than using more neutral language such as completed/attempted

-turning the deceased’s social media pages into memorials especially without careful moderation to delete potentially dangerous posts

-failing to share suicide prevention resources in posts/articles about suicide

This is not to say that the victims of suicide should not be mourned or remembered, but that we must do so in a conscientious way. The people who are most vulnerable to suicide contagion are those who occupy the same or similar demographic categories as the deceased. When we talk about the suicides of LGBT youth carelessly we are putting the most vulnerable members of our community at risk. Please keep these guidelines in mind when you are deciding what to post and reblog!

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

And finally, if you are considering suicide or think someone you know may be PLEASE seek help. Stay safe and look out for each other and for yourselves. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US): 1 (800) 273-8255

The Trevor Project Lifeline (Specifically for LGBTQ Youth): 866-488-7386

Suicide Warning Signs