Writing Suicide

As I continue to see books in which characters attempt/commit suicide I feel compelled to talk about something that many writers and publishers don’t appear to realize.

There is a correlation between portraying suicide in books and film and actual suicides. In effect, suicide is contagious, and by writing about it you’re part of the problem. Sorry but it’s true. DON’T WRITE ABOUT SUICIDE.

I’m sensitive to this for a variety of reasons but I’ve gone out of my way not include these issues in a recent novel of mine.

Writers love to hit on the taboo. I understand that. We’re always searching for subject matter that hits hard and creates buzz and emotional impact, but sometimes things should not be written about.

Here are a few small points pulled from sources on the Internet (of which there are many):
Suicide by asphyxiation increased over 300% in NYC after the publication of Final Exit. In 27% of cases the book was found in the victim’s possession.
In another study, 32% of suicide attempts were aware of a recent suicide on television, and 14% reported that it influenced their attempt.
41% of attempters in Hungary reported suicidal role model in media.
Youth are 4 times more likely to copy cat fictional suicide than adults.
The increase in youth suicides between 1950-2000 at an aggregate level can be entirely explained by fictional portrayal.

So…Don’t write about suicide. Don’t publish them. Don’t help rationalize it, normalize it, imply it as a solution (to pain, mental disorder, attention seeking), show the rewards of it (hurting others), glorify it (student and family reactions of loss, remembrance, etc.).


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