Friday, September 16, 2005

Scotsman Drops Ball

A wave of suicides in a Scottish community is being recognized as the probable result of the copycat effect. But the media only goes halfway in preventing future copycats.

Edinburgh's Scotsman publishes an article on September 16, with the headline, "Third teenage death fuels fears of copycat suicides."

Discussing the third suicide in three months in Lothians' Livingston, the paper writes: "Ryan Hargan, 17, was found by his mother in the bathroom of his home on Wednesday evening. Ryan's death comes only a week after Liam Cosgrove, 15, was found hanging from a climbing frame of a playpark in the town. In June, Daniel Brockie, 16, was also found hanging in his home."

The paper extends the copycat effect by graphically detailing the local method of suicidal death. This is an unnecessary retelling of this means, easily available to youth, as a behavioral option and something "their peers" are doing.

Also, "in recent years, the Lothians has been rocked by a series of teenage suicides. Seven teenagers took their own lives in the Lothians in just six months. Three Lothian youths were believed to have taken their own lives in March 2002, bringing the total to seven since August 2001."

Why the use of the word "rocked"? The twilight meaning for youth is that "to rock" is a positive outcome.

The realization that the copycat effect may be involved is mentioned. "ChildLine Scotland director Anne Houston has warned about copycat suicides. Ms Houston said: 'Part of the concerning thing, according to people who work with suicide as an issue, is it can almost become infectious. It can have a copycat effect.'"

Awareness is the first step, but the newspaper's article unfortunately merely "reports" (somewhat too graphically) without going the next step. Despite mentioning that "Children's charities have today urged suicidal youngsters in the Lothians to come forward" to talk to someone about their feelings, the article does not give hotline or helpline numbers, or addresses or websites for youth thinking about killing themselves to visit for a lifeline.

This article dropped the ball.

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