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Suicide

  • By: Jane Pirkis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Media communication about suicide is an important issue because of its potential to lead to copycat acts. The reasons behind a person's decision to end his or her own life are often multiple and complex, so understanding the influence that the media may have on vulnerable individuals is crucial for suicide prevention.

The earliest well-documented instance of this occurring involves Johann Wolfgang van Goethe's 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. The novel tells the story of Werther, a young man who falls in love with a woman named Lotte, who is betrothed to Albert. Werther becomes increasingly angst-ridden, and after Lotte and Albert marry, shoots himself. The novel received much publicity, initially because it was well-received by critics but later because it was associated with ...

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