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Reporting has an effect on suicide

The report (Irish Independent, January 25) on the death by suicide of five men in Co Offaly made for grim reading.

The role of the Government in prevention is properly emphasised, but the role of the media, particularly newspapers, in reporting suicides should not be underestimated.

Explicit descriptions and repetitive accounts of individual cases, especially violent deaths, are known to trigger copycat suicides -- the so-called Werther effect.

Happily, however, the contrary can also occur. Sensitive reporting of people coping with a crisis by adopting constructive, not self-destructive, strategies is linked to lower suicide rates.

Dr John Doherty
Vienna, Austria

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