Mental health issues :The role of media on preventing suicide

By Qaqamba Matundu


Mental Health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It encompasses one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and plays a crucial role in how individuals handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Good mental health contributes to overall life satisfaction and well-being.

Causes of Suicide are complex and can vary from person to person. They often involve a combination of factors. Some common factors that may contribute to suicide include:

Mental Health Disorders: Many individuals who die by suicide have a mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or substance abuse issues. These conditions can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Psychological Pain: Severe emotional pain, despair, hopelessness, and a sense of being trapped can lead individuals to contemplate suicide as a way to escape their suffering.

Previous Suicide Attempts: A history of previous suicide attempts is a significant risk factor, as it indicates a person’s vulnerability to suicidal ideation and actions.

Social Isolation: Loneliness and social isolation can amplify feelings of despair and hopelessness, making individuals more susceptible to suicide.

Stressful Life Events: Events such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, job loss, or the death of a loved one can contribute to suicidal thoughts, especially when coping skills are lacking.

Access to Lethal Means: Easy access to firearms, drugs, or other methods of self-harm can increase the likelihood of completing a suicide attempt.

Family History: A family history of suicide or mental health disorders can indicate a genetic predisposition to these issues.

Substance Abuse: Drug or alcohol abuse can impair judgment and increase impulsivity, making it more likely for someone to act on suicidal thoughts.

Cultural and Societal Factors: Cultural norms, attitudes, and societal expectations can influence an individual’s willingness to seek help and talk about mental health issues.

Lack of Access to Mental Health Services: Limited access to mental health care, stigma surrounding mental health treatment, and inadequate mental health resources can hinder individuals from getting the help they need.

The media plays a crucial role in suicide prevention by shaping public attitudes, spreading awareness, and influencing behaviors. Here are some aspects of its role:

Education and Awareness: Media can provide information about the signs of suicidal behavior, available resources, and how to seek help. This helps individuals recognize warning signs in themselves and others.

Destigmatization: Media can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. Portraying these topics sensitively and accurately can encourage open discussions and seeking help.

Responsible Reporting: Media should adhere to ethical guidelines when reporting on suicides. Irresponsible reporting can sensationalize suicide, potentially leading to copycat behavior. The WHO recommends avoiding explicit details and providing information about available support services.

Portraying Hope and Recovery: Media can also highlight stories of hope and recovery to inspire individuals facing emotional challenges.

Leveraging Social Media: Social media platforms can be used to spread positive messages and resources related to suicide prevention. They can also offer support communities for those in crisis.

Collaboration with Mental Health Organizations: Collaboration between media outlets and mental health organizations can lead to effective campaigns and initiatives that raise awareness and provide resources.

Monitoring and Regulation: Governments and media organizations should monitor content that promotes self-harm or suicide and take appropriate action to remove such content.

I do agree with the article written by Chido Rwafa-madzvamutse that, “The digital media can have a particular harmful effect on suicidal behavior as it increases access to information on suicide methods but on the other hand, responsible reporting has been seen to reduce the rate of copy-cat suicide.”

It’s important to note that suicidal ideation and behaviors are often a result of the interaction between these risk factors. People experiencing suicidal thoughts should seek help immediately from mental health professionals, crisis hotlines, or support networks. Suicide is preventable, and early intervention and support can make a significant difference in saving lives. In summary, the media’s role in suicide prevention is multifaceted, ranging from education and awareness to responsible reporting and destigmatization. When handled responsibly, media can contribute significantly to suicide prevention efforts.

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