Craig Colhoun

Doctor of Clinical Psychology
Study Completed: 2016
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Suicide Contagion: Is the Media Placing the Public at Risk? An Analysis of Suicide Reporting In New Zealand Newspapers

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The media’s reporting of suicide has been shown to increase community suicide rates through a process called suicide contagion. Mr Colhoun investigated suicide contagion within New Zealand by firstly exploring the presence of elements known to contribute to contagion within newspapers and identified how these factors have changed across two timeframes (1997 and 2009). The results identified reporting strengths and weaknesses along with adherence to guidelines and legalisation. A second study involved interviewing newspaper media personnel to explore their perspectives and concerns around suicide reporting. The results revealed participants were sceptical towards the existence of contagion, and consequently did not believe they needed to change their reporting practices. Together these studies demonstrated that in order to decrease media contagion, it is not only necessary to educate the media on what reporting elements need to be changed but to raise awareness that recommended changes may prevent suicides.

Associate Professor Keith Tuffin
Associate Professor Joanne Taylor