Should I watch shows with suicide on television?

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Answered by: Jodi, An Expert in the About Suicide Category
As a person who struggles with suicidal thoughts long term, I've avoided shows with suicidal content like the plague. I've seen enough real people, warriors, lose the battle. I know how I live every day. Death is not a triumph, life is a triumph. Getting out of bed is a triumph. Remembering to eat, shower or check the mail is a triumph.



Watching someone else spiral, is terrifying in its reality. As much as I hate the cheesey happily ever after portrayals of suicidal people, this is worse. By putting it on tv in front of millions of people they're risking people thinking "she can do it, I can too".

Suicide on television is a slippery slope between educating and informing people about the warning signs of mental health crisis and glamourizing death by suicide. People state that suicide in entertainment gets people talking but talking for how long? A week? A month? Then it's forgotten. We're forgotten. I see no long-term gain. Are they donating to or working with mental health organizations? Following up with crisis line contacts?



A year from now people will say "oh yeah, that suicide show". As humans bombarded by media with violence and heartlessness, we've become numb. Somehow suicide has remained shocking and painful, we need it to stay that way if we want to destigmatize mental illness and prevent as many suicides as possible. So let's talk. Spend the time you would spend watching a show featuring suicide talking to a lonely neighbour, listening to your teenager, helping someone posting sad song lyrics on Facebook. Talk to us, not about us. That's how lives are saved.

Television is often used as an escape from every day life. A way to turn off the problems of the day and decompress. If you are dealing with a mental illness, going home to destress and watching shows about mental illness can be horribly detrimental as you are suddenly watching your own thought patterns come to life through someone else on television. When the person on television ends their suffering via suicide after their life mimics your own, it affects your ability to think rationally about the situation. Their solution looks like the easiest and most painless way out. Now it's you thinking about mimicking their thought patterns, and actions.

So many times people become incredibly entrenched in a television series. The characters become friends we care deeply about, storylines become regular conversation around the office, you plan your life around show times and avoiding social media or places where you might hear spoilers. Our lives are constantly influenced and controlled by television entertainment. To think that a subject like suicide on television would have any less influence or control over us would be ludicrous. Add to that someone already battling the demons in their head and it is a recipe for disaster.

Suicide does not need to be part of how we are entertained. We should not allow it to be normalized to the point that we become numb to it. We do not need to see suicides on television.

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