Gay Teen Suicide Coverage May Spark Contagion, Experts Say

Posted by on November 2, 2010

Suicide experts are criticizing assertions that recent teen suicides are being directly attributed to bullying. 

A Harvard psychology professor and researcher is criticizing the media for sensationalizing the media coverage of the deaths of bullied teens.

The experts also believe the media coverage is contributing to a suicide contagion: A condition where the glamorized or sensationalized nature of the reporting of teen suicides risks contributing to subsequent copycat suicides.

An October 26th article by Medill Reports of Chicago entitled, “Gay teen suicide coverage may spark contagion, experts say,” lays out these and other concerns about the recent media and public hysteria about bullying and teen suicides.

Professor Ron Slaby at Harvard, “…added that he thought these media ‘blips’ of how bullying leads to suicide unintentionally glorifies suicide and ignores the underlying fundamental issue of mental illness.”

Slaby also criticized the “It Gets Better Project,” a YouTube channel with videos assuring gay teens that life gets better after high school.  Slaby says this type of project does not go far enough by simply telling people to wait for things to get better, when it is the culture around LGBT issues which must be changed.

The bottom line:  The fundamental issue is mental illness.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age, according to the Medill article.

In my opinion, it is frustrating — and rather pathetic — that all of the media, politicians, and advocates have been so quick to jump on the bullying bandwagon, but none want to have an equally lengthy and intense conversation about teen mental health.

What say you?

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:

2 thoughts on “Gay Teen Suicide Coverage May Spark Contagion, Experts Say

  1. Doreen Fatula says:

    I think both issues (mental health/suicide) and (bullying) need to be addressed. Neither should be avoided. Neither “glamorized”. Each can and should be presented with thoughtful consideration. When words and actions come from a “middle way” there is a great deal of potential for positive outcomes…no matter who or what we are talking about. I think the “It gets better campaign” does help. Silence and isolation – doing nothing or ignoring this unique part of our community is not an option. We all need education, support and balanced action to address man’s inhumanity to man where ever we see it.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Nicely stated, Doreen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Ken

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *