19.2 Publishing statistics

This measure refers to the way in which data about railway suicides or trespassing accidents should be published (e.g. which numbers, level of detail, etc.)
  • Be careful with information that should be kept confidential. Pay attention to what data you issue (e.g. never communicate exact locations).
  • Pay attention to possible information leaks to the media.
  • Train a spokesperson for this type of public communication who communicates with media.
  • Local newspapers may be less aware of the implications of what they publish and, sometimes, local media discloses too much information.
  • Pay attention to the new emerging media (i.e. social media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Non-professional media represent major constraints because they can defeat the efforts to enforce guidelines.
  • The measure is likely to have a stable effect as long as publication standards continue to be applied.
  • Compared to the two years before the railway suicide of a famous football player, the incidence ratio of the number of railway suicidal acts in the 2-year-period following this event increased by 18.8% (95% confidence interval (CI)=11.0–27.1%;p<0.001). The median number of suicidal acts per day increased from 2 to 3 (p<0.001). This effect remains significant after excluding short-term 2-week effects of the celebrity’s suicide. An anniversary effect was not present. The increase of fatal railway suicides between 2007 and 2010 (25%) was significantly different from that for the total number of suicides in Germany (6.6%) (p<0.0001) (Hegerl et al., 2013; Ladwig et al., 2012).
  • Media coverage over a fatal accident on railway tracks impacts subsequent railway suicide numbers. The daily number of suicidal acts was 43-53% higher during the 2 month index period (following extensive media coverage of a disastrous accident) in comparison to the control period days (Kunrath et al., 2011).
  • Subway suicides were reported doubled in Toronto, following reports of subway suicides occurring between 1970 and 1971. However, after a six-month restriction of reporting of subway suicides, the rate of subway suicides returned to baseline levels (Sarchiapone et al., 2011).
  • Following implementation of guidelines for responsible media reporting on suicide in Vienna in 1987, the number of suicides and suicide attempts in the local subway system dropped by 80% (Etzersdorfer & Sonneck, 1998; Sonneck et al., 1994).
  • There was some evidence of a nationwide impact of the guidelines, calculated as a significant reduction of 81 suicides (95% confidence interval: -149 to -13; t = -2.32, df = 54, p <0.024) annually. This effect was particularly due to a significant reduction in the area with the highest coverage rates of the collaborating newspapers. Viennese subway suicides showed a highly significant level shift (t = -4.44, df = 19, p <0.001) and a highly significant trend change (t = -4.20, df = 19, p <0.001) after the introduction of the guidelines. These effects corresponded to significant changes in the quality and quantity of media reporting (Niederkrotenthaler & Sonneck, 2007).
  • Media stories about how people coped positively with suicidal feelings actually have led   to a decrease in levels of suicide in the general population (Niederkrotenthaler, Voracek, Herberth, Till, Strauss, et al., 2010).
  • A Swiss study looked at the effects of the implementation of media guidelines and found that though the number of articles on suicide had increased the quality of the coverage had significantly improved: reports were less sensational, shorter and lesser on the front page (Andriessen, 2011).
  • The media reporting of suicide was synchronized with increased suicide deaths during major suicide events such as celebrity death, and slightly lagged behind the suicide deaths for 1 month in other periods without notable celebrity deaths. The means of suicide reported in the media diversely affected the suicide models. Reports of charcoal burning suicide exhibited an exclusive copycat effect on actual charcoal burning deaths, whereas media reports of jumping had a wide association with various suicide models. Media reports of suicide had a higher association with suicide deaths in urban than in rural areas (Yang et al., 2013).
  • Imitation effects were most clearly observable in the groups whose age and sex were closest to those of the model. Over extended periods (up to 70 days after the first episode), the number of railway suicides increased most sharply among 15- to 19-year-old males (up to 175%). The effect steadily decreased in the older age groups, so that no effect was observable for males over 40 years and females over 30 years. (Schmidtke & Häfner, 1988).
  • In the Netherlands, the work of van Houwelingen (2011) provides extensive research and proof in favour of media guidelines.
  • In Belgium, INFRABEL   does not make statistics about suicides available to the general public. However, these figures are available in INFRABEL  ’s annual safety report, which is then sent to the ERA   for comparative statistics. From time to time, the issue is raised in parliamentary questions by various political parties.
  • In Sweden, there are ethical rules of/for the press that speaks about care when publishing information about suicides.

last update: 2022-06-01 Print