Audience impact


Stage & Screen IconWhile the portrayal of suicide can be shocking and engaging, evidence suggests that the dramatic portrayal of suicide can have a negative impact on vulnerable audiences. Fictional on-screen suicide may impact on actual suicidal behaviour, increasing the likelihood of “copycat” suicides and/or preventing those at risk of suicide from seeking appropriate help.

 

A summary of research evidence regarding the impact of different types of portrayals of suicide


  • Portrayal of suicide in film and drama is widespread and has increased over time. Depictions of the act have become lengthier, more extensively modeled, more likely to involve firearms and more romanticised, glorified and condoned;
  • Young people are disproportionately represented in films with a suicide theme;
  • Research suggests that there is some support for an imitative effect of on-screen portrayals of suicide on actual suicidal behaviour among viewers. The majority of studies have demonstrated that completed and attempted suicide rates show unexpected rises after such screenings; and
  • Most studies in this area have focused on the potential for harm, rather than the potential for good.

Preferred portrayals of suicide do not glorify or romanticise it and do not provide visual details of or spoken references to the exact method. Rather more appropriate portrayals depict the consequences for others and provide sources of help for vulnerable viewers.

 

Research Evidence


More factual information can be obtained from the evidence and research section for stage and screen on this website.