Death by suicide and self-inflicted injuries have increased in the Maldives over the years. Reasons behind which can be really complex, studies conducted in different parts of the world shows the leading cause as mental health issues related to depression and substance abuse. What we know about causes of suicide lags far behind our knowledge of many other life threatening diseases.

In many cases, it’s the tip of the iceberg that we see; tragic death of a mentally disturbed person (helpless in some situations), and we are too quick to judge and talk about it loudly, as if we were their therapist. And most notably, in the era of unprecedented media freedom, we see instant breaking news of very tragic events in a quite disturbing and insensitive manner. We’ve seen cases of immediate disposal of unverified and imagined floating theories of suicide hitting the mainstream media, particularly on the Internet, which goes viral on the social media, without any regard for the privacy of mourning family and friends.

Today, with access to social media at our fingertips, posting and sharing of inappropriate and disturbing images, and comments have become a norm among us. Very recently there was a case of attempted suicide in Male’. Fortunately the troubled girl was saved and hopefully she would get the necessary assistance, to get out of which ever mess she was in.  Anyway, we didn’t make it any easier for her. Imitation of the incident in varying forms, was carried out on the cyberspace in different parts of the country. And a staggering number of people seemed to be entertaining it, as a joke. If that is not bullying, tell me what bullying is! Why are we so iron-headed about vulnerable issues? Very sad, indeed!

Evidence continues to amass on the significant impact of media coverage on suicide; known as suicide contagion or weather effect. Widespread coverage in the media has long been thought to be capable of triggering copycat suicides, and also pushing people who are in similar conditions, over the edge. Especially, when the coverage goes into particular details of the victim, the methods used with reasoning, without mentioning the sources of help available for the vulnerable populations, in particular, people dealing with similar kind of problems.

Media guidelines for reporting of suicide has been formalized and implemented in many countries, including the UK, US and Australia. It’s about time, for our small nation, with a wide array of different forms of media, to adopt international best practices in covering sensitized stories. Suicide is a public health issue! How and why is not for us to judge, for there are specialists in the field who can provide answers to that.


References and relevant documents:

Influence of the media on suicide 

Copycat suicide: The influence of the media 

Media coverage as a risk factor in suicide

Suicide and the Media

Media guidelines for the reporting of suicide 

Recommendations for reporting of suicide 

Recommendations for reporting on suicide 

Reporting on suicide: Recommendations for media

SANE Australia: Summary of Mindframe guidelines for media reporting of suicide 

Irish media guidelines for reporting suicide and self-harm