CMH Seminar: 25th October 2018 – Mad or Sad? Suicidal behaviour in popular police series on Belgian television

12.30-1.30pm Thursday 25th October 2018
Room 410, Level 4, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton

Presenter: Karl Andriessen – Karl Andriessen, MSuicidology, BSW, is an NHMRC ECF (from January 2019) at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

Fictional suicidal behaviour may affect the public as a risk or a protective factor. Fictional portrayals may also reflect how suicide is perceived in a society. However, surprisingly little is known of how suicidal behaviour is portrayed in television series. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of televised fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviour. A secondary aim was to investigate preventative interventions and the role of people bereaved by suicide.

The material of the study comprised all episodes (N=475) of four police series, which were screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria; 87 episodes (18%) with a total of 54 suicides, 13 attempted suicides, 13 suicide threats, and 20 characters bereaved by suicide, were included in a quantitative and qualitative analysis. Overall, two prototypes emerged: (a) a ruthless, psychopath-type, criminal who kills him/herself when exposed or before being arrested, (b) a suicidal individual who is struggling with devastating life events.

The study provides unique insights in how suicidal behaviour is televised. Though some factors may be portrayed adequately, mental health related factors are overlooked, spectacular suicide methods are over-represented, and the bereaved are mostly unidimensional revengers. Questions emerging from this study include: What do the findings say about societal views on suicide? Can suicide prevention learn from television portrayals? What are strategies for improving the accuracy of televised suicidal behaviour?

For more details please view the event flyer.

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