Trigger Warning: Discussion of Suicide
Let’s talk about suicide. Or, more specifically, let’s talk about how we talk about suicide. It’s a big word that’s left an even bigger imprint on our society. In Australia, suicide is one of the leading causes of death amongst young people, and despite its deeply unfortunate prevalence, there is still a great deal of social stigmatisation which limits our conversations surrounding its causes and impacts.
One of MentalMusic’s biggest goals is to promote awareness and discussion around issues concerning youth mental health by starting conversations and sharing stories. But when it comes to an issue as sensitive as suicide, there is a wrong way of creating awareness. Misrepresentation, or displaying suicide in a triggering (or worse, encouraging) manner, has the potential to increase the pain caused by an already shocking event.
A recent instance of this can be seen in YouTuber and internet personality Logan Paul’s video, which featured the body of a recently deceased man in Aokigahara (Japan’s so-called ‘suicide forest’). Despite the inappropriately lighthearted tone of the video, which featured ‘comedic’ commentary on the ordeal, Paul justified it as an attempt to raise suicide awareness. In the aftermath, Paul was criticised for his insensitive approach to the tragic nature of the circumstances, as well as his reckless disregard for the wellbeing of his young viewers and disrespect for those personally affected by the man’s death. Though he did eventually respond to the backlash and address the impact of his actions in an apology video, by that point a great deal of damage had already been done.
Logan Paul isn’t alone in his damaging portrayal of suicide - he isn’t even the first YouTuber to feature Aokigahara in a vlog format. This incident is symptomatic of a broader social issue: a lot of the general population is ignorant to the correct (and incorrect) ways of discussing or portraying suicide in media. We at MentalMusic aren’t experts on this either - we will likely make mistakes when discussing serious issues, and we accept that it is our responsibility to examine our impact, carefully evaluate our content, and most importantly, respond to misrepresentation with humility and respect. It’s up to all of us to continuously learn and improve our treatment of this serious and sensitive issue; essentially, Logan Paul serves as an example of what not to do when portraying suicide. On that note, here are a few more “Don’ts” to follow when discussing suicide:
DON’T provide specific details on the methods or location of the suicide. This can act to both trigger those who have been affected by suicide, or encourage those with suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
DON’T sensationalise or romanticise the act, motivation or impact of a person’s suicide. Far too often in our media, suicide and mental illness is portrayed as something poetic or desirable, and this only increases the damage it causes to both individuals and society as a whole.
DON’T use graphic photos or video footage of suicide. Though some may justify this as highlighting the shocking nature of suicide, this has damaging psychological effects, especially for those personally affected by suicide.
Clearly, when it comes to portraying suicide in a constructive manner, we as a society still have a long way to come. Incidents similar to Logan Paul’s blatant mistakes will happen again, and it’s important that we all learn from them if we are to minimise the damage caused by suicide.
If this article, or any of the mentioned material, has triggered you in any way, please contact the following services:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800