Surgeon General calls for suicide watch


The Surgeon General wants to "change media representations of suicide" as part of a "National Strategy for Suicide Prevention." Surgeon General David Satcher today announced the wide-ranging project.

The summary of the project''s goals and strategies asserts that "studies have shown that both news reports and fictional accounts of suicide in movies and on television can lead to an increase in suicide." But the summary also said that TV can be a positive force in suicide prevention if it changes its ways.

Among those recommended changes are in the depiction of substance abuse and mental illness. "Negative views of these problems may lead individuals to deny they have a problem or be reluctant to seek treatment - and untreated mental illness and substance abuse are strongly correlated with suicide," says the summary.

Other suggestions include 1) establishing a public/private group to promote responsible representation of suicidal behaviors and mental illness on TV and in movies, 2) increasing the number of TV shows, films and news reports that adhere to guidelines on the depiction of mental illness and suicide mental illness, and 3) increasing the number of journalism schools that address reporting of mental illness and suicide in their curricula. - John Eggerton