Robin Williams made two suicide attempts
Coroner's findings reveal Robin Williams made two attempts to end his life during his final hours. Lifeline 13 11 14.PT0M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3dlku 620 349 August 13, 2014
- Williams made two attempts on his life
- 'It just came out of my mouth': Fox News blunder
- Cash-strapped star 'downsized' before death
- The tweet that went too far
- Family pays tribute
- His unseen movies
- Williams dominates downloads
- Social media backlash
- Best two movies aren't obvious
On Monday night, as fans around the world began to grieve over losing Robin Williams to suicide, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - best known as the people behind the Oscars - sent out what may be the iconic social media image of his death.
More than 307,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 78 million people have seen it.
Robin Williams prepares to present the Oscar for best animated feature at the Academy Awards in 2005. Photo: Reuters
The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.
"If it doesn't cross the line, it comes very, very close to it," said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "Suicide should never be presented as an option. That's a formula for potential contagion."
Genie, you're free. pic.twitter.com/WjA9QuuldD— The Academy (@TheAcademy) August 12, 2014
Moutier is referring to a well-documented phenomenon, better-known as "copycat suicide," in which media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.
Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP have also become particularly attentive to the role the internet plays in romanticising notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid.
"The potential for online reports, photos/videos and stories to go viral makes it vital that online coverage of suicide follow site or industry safety recommendations," one media guide reads.
But in the hours since @TheAcademy's tweet went viral, professionals like Moutier have become concerned that it doesn't, in fact, follow established safety recommendations.
The starry sky from Disney's Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light, Moutier said.
Now that media is social, however, and anyone can go viral, it's more difficult to educate influencers on those issues. (It's unclear who at the Academy sent the tweet, and the Academy did not respond to requests for further comment.)
In either case, Moutier has some advice for organisations and individuals talking about Williams' death online: Be sure to acknowledge that suicide has underlying issues - and those issues can be addressed.
The focus, she adds, should be on his incredible life. It certainly shouldn't celebrate or glorify how he died.
"A quarter of the population suffers from mental health issues that could potentially drive suicidal thoughts," Moutier said. "This is a very important issue, from a public health standpoint, and one we need to bring to light."
The Washington Post
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