Issues to consider


Stage & Screen IconSuicide is a prominent public health issue in Australia, with over 2000 people taking their lives each year. While suicide has traditionally been considered as a taboo subject for discussion, many people are becoming more comfortable talking about the issue. However, dramatic portrayals of suicide can have an impact on vulnerable audiences, leading to increased rates of suicide attempts or deaths.
 
When developing a storyline that might include suicide, you may want to ask yourself…

 

Why am I introducing suicide into the story?

  • Is it to resolve a storyline, or to explore the issue from a personal perspective?
  • Consider that depictions of suicide may be harmful to vulnerable viewers.
  • Consider that people who have lost someone to suicide are themselves vulnerable to mental health problems and suicidal thinking and may also be affected by the story.  

Should the suicide be portrayed?

  • Detailed portrayal of specific methods of suicide have been linked to “copycat suicides” by that particular method.
  • If portrayed, consider the length of the depiction and the impact this may have on vulnerable viewers or people affected by suicide.
  • Might my portrayal of suicide be wrongly interpreted as a solution to a problem?
  • Could less detail have a better dramatic effect than a graphic depiction?
  • Does the music, lighting, or setting romanticise or glamorise suicide?  

How can I explore the issue with more depth?

  • Understanding causes or risk factors for suicide can enhance the portrayal. Many people who attempt or die by suicide have a mental disorder, a drug related illness or other risk factors such as a relationship breakdown, financial distress or a physical illness.
  • Showing the impact of suicide on other characters - such as family, friends, colleagues and the whole community - may place the death in a broader context of tragedy and loss, showing the wastefulness of the act.
  • Different communities, cultures and age groups (e.g. children) have different attitudes to suicide and ways of coping with loss that may provide new insights.  

Have I checked the accuracy and authenticity of my portrayal?

  • There are many myths and misconceptions about suicide and suicide risk. Accessing reliable information and expert opinion about suicide trends and risk factors is important.
  • Consider the value in talking to people directly affected by suicide when developing storylines.
  • For facts about suicide, see the Suicide Facts and Stats section of this website. For information on suicide and its risk facts, see the facts page of the universities section of this site. For reflections of suicide from personal experience, see the Industry area section of this website (login required).  

What else can I do?

  • Depictions that emphasise the consequences for others and sources of support for vulnerable viewers may encourage people to seek help.
  • Including phone numbers and contact details for support services at the end of a piece (or as part of the drama) provides immediate support for those who may have been distressed, or prompted to seek help.