Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Bridge's Copycats

The Bridge, about the Golden Gate Bridge's suicides, clearly could be a source of copycat suicides.

It is good to see there is already a discussion about this occurring.

The UPI carried an article, on October 21, 2006, "Suicide documentary haunts audiences" that mentions:

Suicide experts say Eric Steel's The Bridge, which shows six people killing themselves, glamorizes his subjects and could trigger copycat deaths.

"All research suggests that showing, in detail, methods of suicide does result in an increase of those methods immediately afterwards, so portrayal of methods of suicide is ill-advised," Professor Keith Hawton of the Center for Suicide Research at Oxford University tells The Times of London.

Steel, 42, says the most popular suicide spot in the world "already has a copycat problem." He says the real issue is dealing with mental illness.

The film, screened at The Times BFI London Film Festival, gives brief portraits of the six people's tragic lives, pieced together from interviews with family and friends.

But it is the footage of the jumpers that haunts audiences long after the credits have rolled, the Times said.

ABC News also published an online article about this new documentary on October 20th, "The Bridge of Death."

Some extracts:

From January through December 2004, Steel used 10-to-12-person crews to train his cameras day and night on this landmark -- using both close-up lenses and wide angle shots to see the full expanse of the bridge.

By the time he finished, he had taped 23 of the 24 suicides that occurred that year. Now he has released a documentary called "The Bridge" that shows some of the jumps. The film has produced both praise and condemnation for his choices.

And ...the documentary has raised hackles over the appropriateness of documenting suicide, and heightened fears that it could encourage copycat suicide acts. Celia Kupersmith, CEO and general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District said that when Steel's film first began to get publicity in festivals earlier this year, there was an increase in suicide attempts at the bridge.

"I don't think it's just his movie," Kupersmith said. "Any sort of press coverage of this phenomenon here causes people to get ideas."

Some critics are also worried because they believe that seeing suicides often prompts others, but Steel doesn't believe that the causal chain is that direct.

"Most suicides are the end product of a long struggle with mental illness," Steel said. "They're not the end product of seeing images of people killing themselves. We don't show anything that people don't already know. The images themselves I don't think are the things that are driving people to the bridge."

Steel seems unaware of the research on the copycat effect.

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