En Suicide clustering and contagion: The role of the media


  • Ruth Benson
  • Niall McTernan
  • Fenella Ryan
  • Ella Arensman




Internationally, there are indications of an increasing trend in suicide contagion and clustering, which has been associated with contemporary communication technology and continuous communication across jurisdictions. Research has indicated varying effects related to different types of media and media contents in terms of impacts on suicidal behaviour. A comprehensive literature search was conducted into research addressing different types of media and media contents and the impact on suicide contagion and clustering, covering January 2003 - February 2021. Across the 41 selected studies, we identified consistency in terms of both increased quantity of media reports and portrayal of specific details of suicide cases, including celebrities and fictional cases, to be significantly associated with suicide contagion and increased suicide rates or mass clusters, with significant impacts on increased risk of suicide contagion within the first days up to the first three months
following the media coverage. The impact of potentially harmful content and the portrayal of suicide and self-harm via internet sites and social media on suicide contagion and clustering was largely consistent with research into impacts involving traditional media. The findings underline the need to prioritise implementation and adherence to media guidelines for reporting suicide for media professionals, online and social media outlets.