Thursday, 21 October 2010

Teen Suicides: How Many More?

There are two more reports of American gay teenagers committing suicide, it's said due to homophobic bullying and attacks; Corey Jackson, 19 (pictured) and Terrel Williams, 17.
Though all these suicides are tragic, and it's good to see the US media bring attention to the terrible experiences gay kids have at school, as Fagburn has written before; as there are almost 100 suicides in the US every day - with gay men and young men being over represented - how many young American gay men take their lives every day?
There is no "surge" or new "epidemic" - it's always been this bad.*
They are finally newsworthy, and this may be problematic.
Reporting of suicides is a contentious issue, MediaWise and the National Union of Journalists have published 'Reporting Suicide: Guidance For Journalists.'
Next time you read anything about gay teen suicides you might like to ask yourself if it follows any of its recommendations.
In fine: "Consideration for the feelings of relatives, avoiding detailed descriptions of suicide methods, providing information about where help and advice can be found, avoid sensational headlines, images, and language, avoid speculation..."
"Suicide is a complex issue, often linked to mental illness - It is neither helpful nor accurate to suggest that suicide occurs as a result of a single factor. Often there will be history of forms of mental illness like depression, and this should be acknowledged. Avoid giving the impression that suicide is a simple 'solution' to a particular problem; acknowledge that sudden death creates problems for family and friends."
Is sentimental and sensationalist coverage only making gay suicides more likely?

* Further here's a Skeptical Inquirer article about how bad data and bad math may have led some to miscalculate a "gay teen suicide epidemic".


  1. This whole thing reminds me of the charlie brooker clip about reporting mass murders (

    Obviously its a very different situation but the way these stories are cherrypicked sensationalised and given so much international media coverage can hardly be helping anyone. It does make a 'compelling' media narrative though so its unlikely they are going to change (or acknowledge the thousands of gay suicides that occured before during and after this epidemic of 7) particularly not while it still sells papers.

  2. A Huffington Post article October 23rd, also points out how common suicides on campus, and of young people generally in the US are...

  3. The reported suicide of Terrel Williams now appears to be a hoax...