CMH MPhil Confirmation Seminar: 13th December 2018 – Media reporting of Robin Williams’ suicide
3.00-4.00pm, Thu 13th December 2018
Seminar Room 410, Level 4, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton
Candidiate: Professor Jane Pirkis, Director, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne
Supervisors:Professor Dallas English & Professor Melanie Wakefield
There is extensive evidence to suggest that media reporting of suicide can exert a contagion effect, leading to imitative suicidal acts.
This is especially likely if reports are prominent, far-reaching, provide explicit details about the method or location of death, and concern individuals with whom audiences identify. Conversely, there is a smaller but increasing evidence base that suggests that framing reports of suicide in certain ways may have a positive impact. For example, there are suggestions that stories that actively address the stigma around depression may encourage help-seeking.
The death of Robin Williams provides a recent example of a celebrity suicide that was widely reported. When the American actor and comedian took his own life on 11 August 2014, the international media coverage was extensive. Little is known about the quality or impact of this reporting however; a handful of studies have been conducted overseas but they have produced inconclusive results. This presentation will describe a project that builds upon previous studies in several ways. It combines an explicit examination of the quality of Australian reporting of Williams’ suicide with an assessment of the extent to which that reporting was associated with two outcomes considered in tandem, one negative (i.e., suicide) and the other positive (i.e., help-seeking).
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