The sensationalisation of suicide coverage in media may trigger vulnerable readers, especially teenagers, to commit suicide themselves, a study has indicated.
The link between news and future suicides was strongest when the media reported on the suicide of a famous person, or when news reports included details such as the time, place and method of suicide, the researchers noted.
"The more sensational the coverage of the suicides, and the more details the story provides, then the more likely there are to be more suicides," Madelyn Gould of the New York State Psychiatric Institute was quoted as saying in a statement.
After analysing 48 cases of suicide clusters, researchers found that groups of suicides are more likely to be preceded by news reports on suicide than individual suicides.
"After a prominent suicide in the community, suicide rates in that area might temporarily increase," researchers said.
In the case of a celebrity suicide, the suicide rate could go up nationwide.
To understand this phenomenon, the team focused on teenage suicide clusters in the US.
They examined newspaper archives from the period between the first suicide in each cluster and the second.
The results showed that clustered suicides were preceded, on average, by more news stories than noncluster suicides.
The likelihood of a suicide cluster also increased if newspapers reported on a celebrity suicide in great detail.
"Our findings support the interpretation that media portrayals of suicide might have a role in the emergence of some teenage suicide clusters," the researcher said in the study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.