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Is the Media Getting Better at Covering Suicide?



Mental health advocates have long criticized the mainstream media for getting it wrong when reporting suicide. These criticisms are based on a historical corpus of research indicating that suicide was frequently reported in an inappropriate manner in the media. Common issues include glorifying or romanticizing suicide and giving excessive detail about the suicide method used. A recent review paper indicates that such coverage could contribute towards “copycat suicides.”

Indeed, one well-publicized U.S. study found a 10 percent increase in suicide mortality after the 2014 death of Robin Williams, which was partially attributed to inappropriate media coverage. Similar increases in suicide mortality were witnessed in Canada and Australia after the death of this well-known celebrity.

As such, mental health advocates take the view that working with the media is an important suicide prevention activity. This has led to initiatives in a variety of countries including Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. Here in Canada, concerted action to improve media reporting of suicide is steered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which has organized several activities to improve media coverage of suicide.

One of these activities is the creation and dissemination of best practice guidelines to promote the Responsible Reporting on Suicide, contained in a glossy booklet called Mindset. Over 5,000 copies of Mindset have been distributed to reporters and journalism schools across Canada in recent years, and Mindset is freely available on the internet.

Mindset encourages journalists to write about suicide in a manner that avoids content that may contribute to copycat suicides. This includes avoiding glorifying or romanticizing the suicide and omitting details about the suicide method used. Similarly, Mindset encourages reporters to include content that can foster positive behaviours such as educational information, quotes from experts, and suicide helpline numbers.

In other words, Mindset balances recommendations to avoid certain potentially harmful content, with recommendations to include certain potentially helpful content. These recommendations overlap considerably with Responsible Reporting on Suicide recommendations produced by other organizations in the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., as well as by the WHO.

Given this situation, it is important to assess the media’s adherence to these recommendations, as low adherence may contribute to copycat suicides, while high adherence may play a role in suicide prevention. As such, my colleagues and I recently examined adherence to Responsible Reporting on Suicide recommendations in a large sample of Canadian news articles published between April 2019 and March 2020. The results of this study were published this month in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, and they reveal some interesting findings.

On the one hand, there was high adherence to many recommendations. For example, over 90 percent of articles did not glamourize suicide or give a simplistic explanation of suicide. Moreover, over 80 percent of articles did not include sensational language or use discouraged words.

On the other hand, there was low adherence to other recommendations, especially those related to content that is potentially helpful. For example, less than 1 in 4 of the articles quote an expert, include help-seeking content, or educational material. Furthermore, around 40 percent mentioned the suicide location or the method, which is discouraged in the recommendations.

Interestingly, articles about a high-profile suicide or about a murder-suicide had the lowest rate of adherence to the guidelines. With regards to high-profile suicides, only 7 percent include help-seeking information, and 2 percent include attempts to educate about suicide. Similarly, around 70 percent of articles about murder-suicide detail the method used, while around 30 percent use sensational language. In contrast, articles focused on suicide policy, research or events had the highest rate of adherence.

In sum, this study revealed that a substantial proportion of articles adhere to many suicide reporting recommendations, especially recommendations to avoid or omit certain content. However, several recommendations are commonly underapplied, especially those related to the proactive inclusion of potentially helpful content, indicating room for improvement.

Interestingly, these results overlap considerably with another just-published study led by Steven Sumner at the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), which also found a scarcity of positive protective elements in news articles about suicide, particularly in U.S. news articles

To conclude, the media has a vital role to play in suicide prevention, and we should be thankful for their efforts to date. But more can be done, and this will require renewed collaboration between journalists, researchers, and suicide prevention experts. This can include targeted engagement with newsrooms, journalism schools, and individual journalists. Such efforts may further improve suicide prevention and ultimately help those in need.

Readers can obtain 24-hour emotional support from national telephone helplines including the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566 (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec); and the U.K. Samaritans on 116 123. Readers elsewhere can obtain local helpline numbers and suicide prevention resources via the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Source: – Psychology Today

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Obama says Trump is 'jealous' of COVID-19's media coverage – CTV News



Former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and faulted him for turning the White House into a “hot zone.”

“More than 225,000 people in this country are dead. More than 100,000 small businesses have closed. Half a million jobs are gone in Florida alone. Think about that,” Obama said, speaking from Orlando as he campaigned for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

He continued, “And what’s his closing argument? That people are too focused on Covid. He said this at one of his rallies. COVID, COVID, COVID, he’s complaining. He’s jealous of COVID’s media coverage. If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country this week.”

Obama, an important surrogate for Biden, campaigned for his former vice president for the second time in four days in Florida. The key battleground state could play a decisive role in the outcome of the election, and recent polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden.

Obama’s Orlando speech built on a blistering rebuke of Trump he delivered last week in Pennsylvania, his first foray onto the campaign trail since a speech to the Democratic National Convention earlier in the year, and over the weekend in Florida.

Obama’s speeches have shown how he is keeping tabs on the day-to-day news about Trump, and how the Biden campaign is deploying him to deliver some of its harshest attacks on the current President and his administration.

Former presidents usually avoid directly attacking their successor in the White House, but Obama has delivered full-throated criticisms of Trump while campaigning for Biden. But Trump, with the way he has continually attacked Obama, even suggesting he should be indicted, has changed the calculus, thrusting the former president onto the campaign trail.

Democrats hope Obama can help gin up enthusiasm among the Democratic base and encourage Black men, Latinos and younger voters in battleground states to turn out and vote.

He accused Trump of failing to take preventative measures to contain the virus across the nation and in the White House. He also pointed to the second recent outbreak among White House staff, which infected several aides including Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short.

“Let me say this: I lived in the White House for a while,” Obama said. “You know, it’s a controlled environment. You can take some preventive measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except, this guy can’t seem to do it. He’s turned the White House into a hot zone.”

Obama criticized the comments made over the weekend by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.”

“Listen, winter is coming,” Obama said. “They’re waving the white flag of surrender. Florida, we can’t afford four more years of this.” He added, “We cannot afford this kind of incompetence and disinterest.”

The former president also criticized senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, for recent comments he made about Black Americans. Kushner said Monday on Fox News, “One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about. But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

Obama seized on the comments, saying, “(Trump’s) son-in-law says Black folks have to want to be successful. That’s the problem.” After a short pause, an incredulous-sounding Obama continued, “Who are these folks? What history books do they read? Who do they talk to?”

Trump responded to Obama’s speech on Twitter, noting that the remarks were airing on Fox News and claiming his predecessor was drawing a small crowd and giving a “fake speech” for Biden.

“Listen, you’ve got a president right now, he wants full credit for an economy that he inherited, he wants zero blame for the pandemic he ignored. But you know what, the job doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be responsible 24/7. You’ve got to pay attention 24/7. Tweeting at the TV doesn’t fix things. Watching TV all day doesn’t fix things. Making stuff up doesn’t fix things,” Obama said.

One week from Election Day, Obama encouraged Floridians to vote early in-person or by mail. “Don’t wait. Put it in the mail or drop it off at a dropbox location today. Don’t take any chances, just get it done,” Obama said.

“We have to turn out like never before, Orlando. We have to leave no doubt. We can’t be complacent. We were complacent last time. Folks got a little lazy. Folks took things for granted. And look what happened. Not this time,” Obama said.

Obama praised his former vice president, describing Biden as a man of “principle and character” and highlighting his empathy and decency.

“He made me a better president, and he’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country,” Obama said.

Obama laid out the ways Biden has said he would get the pandemic under control, including making coronavirus tests free and widely available, distributing a vaccine to every American at no cost and providing enough personal protective equipment to all front-line workers.

“He’s going to make sure that small businesses that hold our communities together and employ millions of Americans can reopen safely, and he understands that we’re not going to rebuild the economy and put people back to work until we get this pandemic under control,” Obama said.

He lambasted Trump and Republicans for attempting to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s landmark health care plan.

“Last week, Trump flat out said he hopes the Supreme Court takes your health insurance away. Said it out loud,” Obama said. “Don’t boo, vote,” he said, repeating a favorite line of his when the crowd booed. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the future of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, next month.

Obama said if elected, Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris of California would “protect your health care, they will expand Medicare, they’ll make insurance more affordable for everybody, because Joe knows that a president’s first job is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic, and microscopic.”

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Nigeria considers social media regulation in wake of deadly shooting – National Post



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ABUJA/LAGOS — Nigeria’s information minister said “some form of regulation” could be imposed on social media just a week after protesters spread images and videos of a deadly shooting using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Images, video and an Instagram live feed from a popular DJ spread news of shootings in Lagos on Oct. 20, when witnesses and rights groups said the military fired on peaceful protesters.

The protesters had been demonstrating for nearly two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. The army denied its soldiers were there.

Social media helped spread word of the shootings worldwide, and international celebrities from Beyonce and Lewis Hamilton to Pope Francis since called on the country to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed told a panel at the National Assembly on Tuesday that “fake news” is one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria.

A spokesman for the minister confirmed the comments, and said “the use of the social media to spread fake news and disinformation means there is the need to do something about it.”

Officials have said some videos and photos posted during the protests were fake news but have not said that about the shootings.

In the weeks before the shootings, protesters had also used social media to organize, raise money and share what they said was proof of police harassment, which increased pressure on authorities to respond to their demands.

Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey Tweeted to encouraged his followers to contribute, and the hashtag #EndSARS was trending for several days, referencing the widely feared Special Anti-Robbery Squad that they successfully demanded be abolished. (Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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3 social media CEOs face grilling by GOP senators on bias – CTV News



The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google are facing a grilling by Republican senators making unfounded allegations that the tech giants show anti-conservative bias.

The Senate Commerce Committee has summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai to testify for a hearing Wednesday. The executives agreed to appear remotely after being threatened with subpoenas.

With the presidential election looming, Republicans led by U.S. President Donald Trump have thrown a barrage of grievances at Big Tech’s social media platforms, which they accuse without evidence of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views.

The chorus of protest rose this month after Facebook and Twitter acted to limit dissemination of an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, an unprecedented action against a major media outlet. The story, which was not confirmed by other publications, cited unverified emails from Biden’s son Hunter that were reportedly disclosed by Trump allies.

Beyond questioning the CEOs, senators are expected to examine proposals to revise long-held legal protections for online speech, an immunity that critics in both parties say enables the companies to abdicate their responsibility to impartially moderate content.

The Justice Department has asked Congress to strip some of the bedrock protections that have generally shielded the tech companies from legal responsibility for what people post on their platforms. Trump signed an executive order challenging the protections from lawsuits under the 1996 telecommunications law.

“For too long, social media platforms have hidden behind Section 230 protections to censor content that deviates from their beliefs,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the Commerce Committee chairman, said recently.

In their opening statements prepared for the hearing, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai addressed the proposals for changes to so-called Section 230, a provision of a 1996 law that has served as the foundation for unfettered speech on the internet. Zuckerberg said Congress “should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”

“We don’t think tech companies should be making so many decisions about these important issues alone,” he said, approving an active role for government regulators.

Dorsey and Pichai, however, urged caution in making any changes. “Undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online,” Dorsey said.

Pichai urged lawmakers “to be very thoughtful about any changes to Section 230 and to be very aware of the consequences those changes might have on businesses and consumers.”

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told congressional leaders in a letter Tuesday that recent events have made the changes more urgent. He cited the action by Twitter and Facebook regarding the New York Post story, calling the companies’ limitations “quite concerning.”

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency, recently announced plans to reexamine the legal protections, potentially putting meat on the bones of Trump’s order by opening the way to new rules. The move by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump appointee, marked an about-face from the agency’s previous position.

Social media giants are also under heavy scrutiny for their efforts to police misinformation about the election. Twitter and Facebook have slapped a misinformation label on content from the president, who has around 80 million followers. Trump has raised the baseless prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process.

Starting Tuesday, Facebook was not accepting any new political advertising. Previously booked political ads will be able to run until the polls close next Tuesday, when all political advertising will temporarily be banned. Google, which owns YouTube, also is halting political ads after the polls close. Twitter banned all political ads last year.

Democrats have focused their criticism of social media mainly on hate speech, misinformation and other content that can incite violence or keep people from voting. They have criticized Big Tech CEOs for failing to police content, homing in on the platforms’ role in hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism in the U.S.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have scrambled to stem the tide of material that incites violence and spreads lies and baseless conspiracy theories.

The companies reject accusations of bias but have wrestled with how strongly they should intervene. They have often gone out of their way not to appear biased against conservative views — a posture that some say effectively tilts them toward those viewpoints. The effort has been especially strained for Facebook, which was caught off-guard in 2016, when it was used as a conduit by Russian agents to spread misinformation benefiting Trump’s presidential campaign.

The unwelcome attention to the three companies piles onto the anxieties in the tech industry, which also faces scrutiny from the Justice Department, federal regulators, Congress and state attorneys general around the country.

Last week, the Justice Department sued Google for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising — the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.

With antitrust in the spotlight, Facebook, Apple and Amazon also are under investigation at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

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