Research Topic

The Role of Media in Suicide and Self-harm: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives

About this Research Topic

Suicide and self-harm persistently remain significant public health concerns. Annually, suicide accounts for 800,000 deaths worldwide, while deliberate self-harm shows high prevalence among adolescents with lifetime prevalence rates around 18% in community samples worldwide. While a complex set of factors contribute to suicidal and self-harming behaviors, growing evidence suggests that media, including traditional, digital, and social media, can play a vital role in shaping public understanding of suicide and self-harm and influencing actual behaviors.

Media portrayals of suicide and self-harm can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, irresponsible media coverage and emotionally charged user-generated content may cast an adverse influence on suicidal and self-harming behaviors. On the other hand, media can be leveraged to disseminate reliable health resources, reach out to underserved populations, augment prevention and intervention effort, and destigmatize suicide and self-harm through awareness campaigns and health education.

Our aim is to bring together cross-disciplinary perspectives on the roles of media in suicide and self-harm research, intervention and promotion, and generate new theories to guide the field’s development in responding to the ever-changing media environment. Furthermore, it aims to inform organizations working on suicide and self-harm prevention to better plan for their own media and communication strategies.

This Research Topic regards suicide and self-harm as two behaviorally distinguishable yet interrelated concepts. Given the considerable overlap between self-harm with and without suicidal intent, and the fact that self-harm is a significant risk factor for suicide, we consider these two behaviors can be conceptualized along the continuum. Getting a greater understanding of the roles played by media in suicide and self-harm, including traditional (e.g. TV programs, radio programs, movies, pop music, books, newspapers, magazines) and newer media (e.g. websites, online forums, social media, mobile apps), is vital for future intervention and prevention efforts.

We welcome submissions from the fields of psychology, psychiatry, media studies, health communication, social sciences, public health, epidemiology, education, and the arts to present diverse disciplinary perspectives to advance research in the field. Possible themes can include but are not limited to:

• Media portrayals of suicide/self-harm (e.g. media coverage, popular cultural representations, user-generated suicide/self-harm content, mental health memes, media guidelines);
• Positive and negative effects of media portrayals (e.g. contagion effect, ethics, impacts of pro-suicide/pro-self-harm websites);
• Suicide/self-harm interventions via media and their effects (e.g. mental health campaigns, patient education, suicide/self-harm surveillance via social media, online peer support, prevention or self-management apps, online counseling & crisis intervention);
• Suicide and self-harm research using digital media (e.g. online survey, observational/ethnographic studies on online communities, online social listening).

Sound empirical research (i.e. Original Research and Brief Research Paper) will be given priority, but conceptual papers (i.e. Conceptual Analysis, Hypothesis and Theory, Perspectives) and review studies and meta-analysis (i.e. Systematic Review, Review, Mini Review) are also welcome.


Keywords: self-harm, mass media, social media, new media, popular culture, media effects, health communication, health promotion, prevention, intervention, imitation, eHealth, mHealth, suicide, health literacy, visual communication, health education


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Suicide and self-harm persistently remain significant public health concerns. Annually, suicide accounts for 800,000 deaths worldwide, while deliberate self-harm shows high prevalence among adolescents with lifetime prevalence rates around 18% in community samples worldwide. While a complex set of factors contribute to suicidal and self-harming behaviors, growing evidence suggests that media, including traditional, digital, and social media, can play a vital role in shaping public understanding of suicide and self-harm and influencing actual behaviors.

Media portrayals of suicide and self-harm can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, irresponsible media coverage and emotionally charged user-generated content may cast an adverse influence on suicidal and self-harming behaviors. On the other hand, media can be leveraged to disseminate reliable health resources, reach out to underserved populations, augment prevention and intervention effort, and destigmatize suicide and self-harm through awareness campaigns and health education.

Our aim is to bring together cross-disciplinary perspectives on the roles of media in suicide and self-harm research, intervention and promotion, and generate new theories to guide the field’s development in responding to the ever-changing media environment. Furthermore, it aims to inform organizations working on suicide and self-harm prevention to better plan for their own media and communication strategies.

This Research Topic regards suicide and self-harm as two behaviorally distinguishable yet interrelated concepts. Given the considerable overlap between self-harm with and without suicidal intent, and the fact that self-harm is a significant risk factor for suicide, we consider these two behaviors can be conceptualized along the continuum. Getting a greater understanding of the roles played by media in suicide and self-harm, including traditional (e.g. TV programs, radio programs, movies, pop music, books, newspapers, magazines) and newer media (e.g. websites, online forums, social media, mobile apps), is vital for future intervention and prevention efforts.

We welcome submissions from the fields of psychology, psychiatry, media studies, health communication, social sciences, public health, epidemiology, education, and the arts to present diverse disciplinary perspectives to advance research in the field. Possible themes can include but are not limited to:

• Media portrayals of suicide/self-harm (e.g. media coverage, popular cultural representations, user-generated suicide/self-harm content, mental health memes, media guidelines);
• Positive and negative effects of media portrayals (e.g. contagion effect, ethics, impacts of pro-suicide/pro-self-harm websites);
• Suicide/self-harm interventions via media and their effects (e.g. mental health campaigns, patient education, suicide/self-harm surveillance via social media, online peer support, prevention or self-management apps, online counseling & crisis intervention);
• Suicide and self-harm research using digital media (e.g. online survey, observational/ethnographic studies on online communities, online social listening).

Sound empirical research (i.e. Original Research and Brief Research Paper) will be given priority, but conceptual papers (i.e. Conceptual Analysis, Hypothesis and Theory, Perspectives) and review studies and meta-analysis (i.e. Systematic Review, Review, Mini Review) are also welcome.


Keywords: self-harm, mass media, social media, new media, popular culture, media effects, health communication, health promotion, prevention, intervention, imitation, eHealth, mHealth, suicide, health literacy, visual communication, health education


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Abstract
01 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Abstract
01 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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