Media’s death grip on holiday suicide myth eases
Heard the one about “holiday blues” causing a spike in suicides? Though experts busted that myth years ago, a new report says there are signs it is finally being laid to rest in the media.
Heard the one about "holiday blues" causing a spike in suicides? Though experts busted that myth years ago, a new report says there are signs it is finally being laid to rest in the media.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has been tracking the print media's persistent and utterly incorrect coverage of the holiday-suicide link since the 1999 holiday season. Back then, 77 percent of those evergreens (formulaic story line: the most wonderful time of the year is a time of despair for too many) supported the myth.
But from mid-November 2014 through January 2015, Annenberg found 25 stories that debunked the myth, versus 22 that supported it.
Hey, it's progress.
"This is the first time in five years that a majority of news stories debunked the myth," Daniel Romer, the center's research director, said Wednesday in a press release announcing the latest update. "It's encouraging to see a turnaround."
In reality, November and December typically have the lowest rates of daily suicides, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Daily suicides usually peak between April and August.
Will news outlets someday completely stop perpetuating the Chris-myth? Don't count on it. In 2006, a banner year for accuracy, 90 percent of stories debunked the holiday suicide myth. The following year, Annenberg found, half of published stories went back to not letting facts get in the way of a maudlin perspective.
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