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Media Portrayal of Suicide

Media portrays suicide as an attention-seeking act, but suicide is serious, and media is making people feel more isolated with its portrayal of it

Media is making people feel isolated no matter how much they try to reach out

Suicide has always been a very touchy topic that many people try to avoid talking about for one reason or another. For some odd reason, suicide has become a taboo topic in today's society. The amount of people, in real life and on social media, who are taking suicide as a taboo-like topic are all making the topic that way without even knowing it.

A few different types of media platforms such as Instagram and Netflix have completely blurred the specifics of the topic of suicide in many ways in their shows and posts in order to avoid the possibility of having copycat suicides popping up around the world.

Copycat suicides, AKA contagion suicides, are the cases of people recreating a suicide that they see happen on TV, social media, or in their own community.

When media platforms like news broadcasts do happen to report on suicides, or when TV shows depict a suicide, they frequently seem to completely overlook any traces of mental illness in the individual who has committed suicide. They manage to somehow make the suicide all about revenge, or a way of getting attention. Mental illnesses usually play a key role in suicidal behavior, and really do need to be discussed with people of all ages when someone close to them, a celebrity, or even just someone in general that they knew in their community, has committed suicide. Media platforms and even schools either completely overlook suicide, or wrongly approach addressing the situation by ignoring the many mental illnesses associated with it, or portraying it as a way of getting a message across to people. These false and brief portrayals of suicide make it appear as though people really are just committing suicide for selfish and acute reasons such as revenge or to gain more attention, not because the individual is suffering from a serious mental illness that has unfortunately pushed them to the point of suicide.

The way that media platforms portray suicide has caused a social stigma about suicide, and an insensitivity to the topic that makes it appear as though mental illness is not connected to the cause of suicide at all, this stigma needs to be changed.

Many different media platforms have begun to report on and depict suicide much more often than they previously were. News stations have begun to do reports on celebrity suicides in depth, going as far as to describe in detail how the person committed suicide. Television shows have even been made that revolve entirely around suicide. One of the most well known TV shows that centers around suicide is the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why.

13 Reasons Why is about a very beautiful, young girl in high school who had a perfectly good life up until she began to get bullied and even raped at one point. After these events occurred, she made the decision to end her own life, but not before making 13 tapes, one for every person that she thought played a role in her decision. Each tape details why she committed suicide to each person, and how she thinks they affected her decision. The show manages to depict suicide as a heartfelt act, to try and teach people a lesson; that lesson being that if people were kind then people wouldn’t commit suicide, but this just is not true. The girl in the show, Hannah Baker, showed no signs of mental illness before she committed suicide, and the mental illness factor was never once discussed in the show until way later on. The show went as far as to show her graphic suicide, but they since have removed the suicide scene from the show since it was blamed for many suicides of young teens around the world. 

This show is just one of many that overlooks the mental illness aspect of suicide. One of the show’s messages is that kindness can save a life, and another is, think before you act, but nowhere in any of the show’s messages does it mention any kind of mental illness causing the suicide. This is a problem because teens should be paying close attention to the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, they shouldn’t think their kindness can fix anyone. Kindness can play a huge factor, but getting someone the help they need is what will hopefully prevent suicide.

Another platform that has a huge impact on suicide and the view of it is social media. Popular social media websites such as Instagram and Tumblr partially influence suicidal behavior due to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the act of insulting or criticizing someone on a social media site or through text messaging. The idea of cyberbullying has been greatly altered by social media. Many seem to be taking it as a joke instead of serious bullying that is pushing people to the point of suicide, and causing people to develop serious mental disorders. However, to argue against the people who believe that cyberbullying should not be taken seriously, many say that there’s evidence that cyberbullying was greatly connected to an increase in depression, and possibly even an increase in suicide since the launch of these platforms. 

Social media has altered the view on suicide by making it appear as a desperate cry for attention when really it is the result of serious mental illnesses becoming too much for one person to handle.

Social media also influences suicidal behavior through its frank and romanticized depiction of suicide. Sites such as Tumblr allow people to post pictures with quotes that glamorize suicide, and try to make it appear like an easy way to gain attention from those you want it from. Some of these pictures romanticize suicide to the extreme, making the act of suicide appear as a courageous and bold act. This creates an issue because this greatly encourages copycat behavior. However, these teens who are posting these pictures usually do not have any intention of encouraging suicidal behavior. The pictures that are being posted are a way for these teens to try and get their feelings across to everyone that they possibly can so they can find people to sympathize and discuss their feelings with. Posting these pictures is a fast and easy way to receive acknowledgement for the mental pain these teens face that they may not be getting in real life. Many also say that it's just to fit in or to feel special for once.

So, teens think posting these pictures is a way of finding others to talk to when really it’s glamorizing suicide as an easy way to gain attention when that is certainly not what it is. Many people know that teens want to gain attention from posting these pictures, but what many do not know is that teens want the attention, so they can find people to talk to about what is making them want to commit suicide. Many think that it’s simply a cry for petty attention, leading them to believe that actually committing suicide is also just another extreme cry for attention. Social media creates the main problematic stigma surrounding suicide. This stigma seems to have a very low chance of changing anytime in the future.

There are some who take talking about suicide as an awful social taboo, what these people do not realize is that we could go a long way to reduce our suicide rate by accepting these people and completely getting rid of the social taboo of talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings, and telling people that it is okay to feel this way sometimes. All that these people, who think that it is just a taboo, want is for the topic of suicide to just simply go away, so they don’t even have to worry about it because it makes them feel uncomfortable. This is just not how suicide works, that type of mindset is one of the many factors that cause a dramatic rise in suicide rates. Not being able to talk about how they are feeling with the people they care about, because of a social taboo, is what makes people who want to commit suicide feel isolated. Those who feel like they have no one to talk to end up feeling helpless, which leads them to think that suicide is in fact the only way out of this seemingly inescapable hole that society has dug for them.

Many do not agree that suicide is connected to mental illness, and that it is simply a cry for attention, but they are rightfully afraid to speak out about their thoughts on the subject online. These people generally do not write articles about their opinions in fear of being attacked on social media, because of how defensive people really are about suicide. Suicide is a touchy topic for many, and people feel strongly about it for one reason or another. The vast amounts of medical studies showing the direct connection between mental illness and suicide virtually shut down the argument that they are not connected in some way on the internet. In real life however, people are very vocal on their thoughts about what mental illness does and does not cause, but not very vocal about their opinions on suicide itself. It is very difficult to find any articles of people arguing that suicide is not at all caused by mental illness. One has to completely go off of what they hear in real life in order to create an argument against their opinion that suicide is almost entirely caused by mental illness.

The large amounts of people who believe that mental illness has nothing to do with suicide, that it is all just a cry for attention, cause a social stigma to develop surrounding the topic of suicide. This stigma not only makes it so people do not want to talk about suicide, but it also makes it seem like people who do talk about it simply want attention, not help for their issue. People end up feeling like they either can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts, or like they have no one to talk to, which usually leads to them feeling helpless and isolated. The stigma about suicide must go away before it pushes even more people to, or past, the brink of suicide. Suicide is not a cry for attention, it is a call for help from people who have lost all hope due to this awful social stigma. The act of committing suicide is caused by serious existing mental illnesses that have become too much for the individual to handle without the help of the people around them.

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