Gratuitous Bebo mention in teen suicide story

A teenage girl commits suicide for no apparent reason. The Daily Mail reports:

Chelsea, a keen dancer, had her own page on the social networking website Bebo.

Her death comes in the wake of a series of 14 recent suicides involving young people in Bridgend, South Wales, and fears that they may have been linked by websites such as Bebo and Facebook.

However, there is no suggestion that Chelsea’s death has any connection to these.

So why mention it?

23 thoughts on “Gratuitous Bebo mention in teen suicide story

  1. mupwangle says:

    Apparently the total’s up to 18 now. And they reckon that there are about 10 in the neighbouring valleys. Again, both Bebo and Facebook are mentioned.

  2. Gary says:

    There’s a lot of really solid research into suicide clusters, and the key factor seems to be… media coverage. Basically if you have a couple of teen suicides, as soon as media outlets start speculating about suicide cults you get a rash of copycats. Which is really rather depressing (and raises the question – given the way the net makes such stories global news, is that a causal factor in clusters? Not because there’s a death cult, but because the lurid headlines are so widely disseminated?).

    I don’t mean to minimise the suffering of the kids’ families here, but the internet suicide cult thing is turning a tragedy into bullshit. The Guardian interviewed the police and the coroner in bridgend a few days after the first lurid headlines and they emphatically denied any social networking link.

  3. Gary says:

    The Press Officer for the local Samaritans writes about it here:

    There is no ‘suicide chain’ in Bridgend

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/feb/19/7

    “The sad fact is that 16 suicides among young people in Bridgend in 12 months is no worse than usual. There were 13 suicides by young people in 2007, and 21 in total. In 2006 the total was 28.”

  4. Squander Two says:

    Ballynahinch is the suicide capital of Europe, apparently. I’ve been there, and it’s not great, but I’ve been to worse places.

    No, I don’t have a point.

  5. IAF says:

    Does anyone know the suicide rate in, ooh, Stoke, or Hull or Cumbernauld (that has to be enough to drive a troubled teen over the edge – bebo or not)? God only knows what the rate is in Milton Keynes.

  6. Gary says:

    Hull’s rate is “higher than average” – possibly due to the number of farmers in the area, for whom suicide rates tend to be very high. Higher than average in Stoke too, but Cumbernauld tends to be lower than the national average (although unusually, rates are higher among women than among men). Milton Keynes used to be famous for an alarmingly high number of young male suicides – way in excess of the national average – but that’s dropped dramatically since the 80s.

    Industry-specific issues aside – farming and vets have very high suicide rates, as does the medical profession (possibly because they have easy access to drugs) – it tends to be a problem affecting men more than women, and rates increase with age. The highest numbers occur in the male 60-75 age group, particularly those who are widows/widowers or divorced and unemployed.

    Not remotely amusing, but true…

  7. mupwangle says:

    Huddersfield’s rate just went up. Someone from work that got caught up in the “restructuring” last year hung himself this week. Didn’t seem the type either.

  8. Gary says:

    Here’s another suicide story, once again from the Mail. The guidelines on reporting suicide say it’s important not to talk about too much detail for fear of copycats – so here we have a story about a copycat that was “mesmerised” by reports of a prior suicide, and this report details exactly how he died. FFS.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=518754&in_page_id=1770

    “Hours after reading the reports, Cameron MacDonald was found suspended from his bunk bed [in] the family’s detached home in Balby, Doncaster.”

  9. mupwangle says:

    I don’t believe for a second that people kill themselves because the method is reported in the media. Especially when it’s a hanging, overdose or throwing yourself off/in front of something. You’ve got to be pretty fecking stupid to seriously consider suicide and not have these things occur to you. The reporting of the suicide does it. The method is irrelevant.

    It would be different if someone died in a very unusual and quite obviously ingenious way like training slugs to asphyxiate you in your sleep or something. That would give the person ideas. Especially if it was something that involved less suffering. Suicide is about relieving suffering (in your own head). Genuine suicides aren’t masochists. If they read in the paper that someone didn’t suffer then that might give them the impetus to act. The last time I read something like that was the guy that managed to get some pure nicotine from work.

    BTW – the above comment “didn’t seem the type” wasn’t meant to sound like such a cliche. The guy had managed to recover from a pretty serious gardening injury (life threatening) which would’ve taken a lot of strength of will to do. You don’t associate that sort of effort with potential suicides, although logically you need a certain strength of will to go through with it.

  10. Gary says:

    I disagree, because the research I’ve seen suggests that the more detail, the more copycats. The mediawise guidelines (which are generally accepted, and which collate best practice from various sources including the samaritans and others) are here:

    http://www.mediawise.org.uk/display_page.php?id=806

    Apparently in isolation, would-be suicides go for fairly unreliable methods such as pills. When successful methods are reported, those methods tend to be imitated. So for example, the Guardian advises its staff that where substances are used, the specific substances or quantities shouldn’t be described. In this case, adding the detail that the poor kid hung himself from a bunk bed is unnecessary and potentially dangerous detail.

  11. mupwangle says:

    I wrote a really long reply there, but realised that since life was ultimately futile, there was was no point in posting it.

    I do think that the editors of the Daily Mail et al are responsible for at least a few of these deaths in Bridgend. Unfortunately it appears that the media are only morally liable for things that affect popstars.

    A good example is this weeks reporting on antidepressants being crap. The report it came from says that anti-depressants are advertised as pills to make you happy, which is obviousy bad advertising. Some bad doctors give out drugs willy-nilly (true). Drugs are often given as the only form of therapy (no councilling) Drugs like Valium have a similar short-term effect. Placebos have as good a short-term effect (this is generally accepted anyway. With depression, placebos give you hope. (Cos you think it is a new wonder-drug). Hope can help, short-term, with depression symptoms) Fair enough, they aren’t miracle drugs. They do, however, show good results in a great many cases. When they are correctly proscribed, they often work.

    Daily Mail – Anti-depressants taken by thousands of Brits ‘do NOT work’, major new study reveals

    BBC News – Anti-depressants’ ‘little effect’

    Yorkshire Post – Antidepressants ‘prove pointless’

    The Sun – Kerry’s Atomic rant at Kittens

    It’s not even just the tabloids.

    Some people shoudn’t be on anti-depressants, but lots should and if this makes people who should be on them stop taking them then these editors should be publicly flogged if a single one takes their own life.

  12. Squander Two says:

    The trouble is that the idiots think that placebos don’t work, so when they see that a drug is reported to perform no better than placebos, they equate that with “doesn’t work”. Whereas in fact placebos often work very well indeed. Why do they think the placebo effect is called an effect? If placebos didn’t work, it wouldn’t even have a name.

    > The report it came from says that anti-depressants are advertised as pills to make you happy, which is obviousy bad advertising.

    Is it, though? There’s plenty of research that shows that advertising can increase the efficacy of placebos — so, for instance, Nurofen really is more effective than chemically idential generic ibuprofen, thanks to Nurofen’s television presence. So you’ve got a drug and you’ve got an advertising budget and you’ve got good solid research that tells you that spending that budget on a certain type of advert will make the drug more effective. And the drug’s effect is to help people. I can’t see what’s bad about it.

  13. mupwangle says:

    Claiming to be better or more effective – OK. Making a mental illness more manageable isn’t the same as making you happy though.

  14. mupwangle says:

    I’ve decided that booze doesn’t make me happy. 2 months off. The scary thing is that I’ve worked out that I can buy a Nikon D300 entirely with cash saved by stopping drinking for 2 months.

  15. mimi says:

    Commenting on Ballynahinch being the suicide capital of europe.
    Im from ballynahinch. I heard people talk about it being the suicide capital of europe. i didnt believe it until i thought about it. the more i thought about it, the more i realised, it might be true.
    I know quite a few people who have commited suicide in ballynahinch. im still not over a particular one as the person was quite close to me and so young and i dont think i ever will. another thing to take into account is – ballynahinch is a small town, and europe has alot of towns and cities in it.
    i think suicide is the worst way to die. depending. if the person really wants to die, and is completely depressed then, you know, they do that. im not saying its acceptable, just thats what happens. but people who put their family and friends through that much pain and misery, just because the didnt get their way or for somehing stupid that could be sorted out no problem the next day, angers me. because everyone blames themselves for it. people think, ‘why did they do it?’ and ‘was there anything i could have done to help?’ and it stays with you forever. they had/have their whole life ahead of them. why waste it?

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