Patricia-Sonsoles Sánchez-Muros e-mail(Login required) , María-Luisa Jiménez-Rodrigo e-mail(Login required)

Main Article Content


Patricia-Sonsoles Sánchez-Muros e-mail(Login required)
María-Luisa Jiménez-Rodrigo e-mail(Login required)



The media play an important role in suicide prevention, which has led to the development of media guidelines for reporting on suicides. Engagement with such recommendations is analysed here. A case study has been conducted of the “Blue Whale Challenge,” an Internet “game” related to self-harm among adolescents, and the public alarm triggered by the related media coverage. Quantitative and qualitative content analysis was carried out of the news stories published in Spain by the mainstream digital media in 2017. The findings indicate the widespread presence of malpractice (sensationalist language and detailed descriptions of methods), which may contribute to copycatting and indicate poor compliance with international guidelines on best practice (such as providing information on reliable and contextualised help resources available). These results underscore the importance of including the role and function of the media in the prevention of this public health problem.


Suicide, media electronic, youth mental health, content analysis, internet, Spain


Abrutyn, S. & Mueller, A. S. (2014). The socioemotional foundations of suicide: A microsociological view of Durkheim’s suicide. Sociological Theory, 32(4), 327-351.

Acosta Artiles, F. J., Rodríguez-Caro, C. J. R. & Méndez, M. R. C. (2017). Noticias sobre suicio en los medios de comunicación. Recomendaciones de la OMS. Rev Esp Salud Pública, 91, e1–e7. Retrieved from

Alao, A. O., Soderberg, M., Pohl, E. L. & Alao, A. L. (2016). Cybersuicide: Review of the role of the Internet on suicide. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 9(4), 489–493.

Asociación de Periodistas de las Islas Baleares (APIB) (2018). Código ético de tratamiento informativo del suicidio en medios de comunicación. Retrieved from

Auxéméry, Y. & Fidelle, G. (2010). Impact d’Internet sur la suicidalité. À propos d’une “googling study” sur la rétro-information médiatique d’un pacte suicidaire échafaudé sur le Web. Annales Medico-Psychologiques, 169(7), 502–507.

Ayers, J. W., Althouse, B. M., Leas, E. C., Dredze, M. & Allem, J. P. (2017). Internet searches for suicide following the release of 13 Reasons Why. JAMA International Medicine, 177(10), 1527–1529.

Barricarte, J. J. S., Rubio, B. M. & Patton, A. E. C. (2017). Analysis of official suicide statistics in Spain (1910-2011). Reis. Rev.Esp.Investig.Sociol., 160, 95–113.

Baume, P., Cantor, C. H. & Rolfe, A. (1997). Cybersuicide: the role of interactive suicide notes on the Internet. Crisis, 18(2), 73–79.

Blood, R. W., Putnis, P. & Pirkis, J. (2001). Mass media portrayals of suicide: Informing the asutralian policy debate. Annual Meeting of International Coddmmunication Association, 24-48. Retrieved from

Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27–40.

Chu, X., Zhang, X., Cheng, P., Schwebel, D. C. & Hu, G. (2018a). Assessing the use of media reporting recommendations by the world health organization in suicide news published in the most influential media sources in china, 2003–2015. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(3), 1-11.

Daine, K., Hawton, K., Singaravelu, V., Stewart, A., Simkin, S. & Montgomery, P. (2013). The power of the Web: A systematic review of studies of the influence of the Internet on self-harm and suicide in young people. PlosOne, 8(10), 1-6.

Dumon, E. & Portzky, G. (2013). Herramienta de Prevención del Suicidio para profesionales de Medios de Comunicación. EUREGENAS Project, 29. Retrieved from

Durán, Á. & Fernández-Beltrán, F. (2020). Responsabilidad de los medios en la prevención del suicidio. Tratamiento informativo en los medios españoles. El Profesional de La Información, 29(2), 1-14.

Durkheim, E. (1985). El suicidio (2nd Ed.). Madrid: Akal.

Fahey, R. A., Matsubayashi, T. & Ueda, M. (2018). Tracking the Werther Effect on social media: Emotional responses to prominent suicide deaths on twitter and subsequent increases in suicide. Social Science and Medicine, 219, 19-29.

Garrido-Fabián, F., Serrano-López, A. E. & Catalán-Matamoros, D. (2018). The use of WHO recommendations for the prevention of suicide. The case of the newspaper ABC. Revista Latina de Comunicacion Social, 73(73), 810-827.

Gunn, J. F., Goldstein, S. E. & Lester, D. (2020). The Impact of Widely Publicized Suicides on Search Trends: Using Google Trends to Test the Werther and Papageno Effects. Archives of Suicide Research, 24(sup1), 142–155.

Hawton, K., Saunders, K. E. & O’Connor, R. C. (2012). Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. Lancet, 379(9834), 2373-2382.

Herrera Ramírez, R., Ures Villar, M. B. & Martínez Jambrina, J. J. (2015). El tratamiento del suicidio en la prensa española: ¿efecto Werther o efecto Papageno? Revista de La Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría, 35(125), 123-134.

INE. (2019). Defunciones según la Causa de Muerte Año 2018 Principales causas de muerte por grupos de enfermedades 1. Retrived from

Johnson, R. B. (1997). Examining the validity structure of qualitative research. Education, 118(2), 282. Retrieved from of_Qualitative_Research

Khattar, A., Dabas, K., Gupta, K., Chopra, S., & Kumaraguru, P. (2018). White or blue, the whale gets its vengeance: A social media analysis of the blue whale challenge. preprint arXiv:1801.05588

Krippendroff, K. (1990). Metodología de análisis de contenido. Teoría y práctica. Barcelona, Paidós.

Lupariello, F., Curti, S. M., Coppo, E., Racalbuto, S. S. & Di Vella, G. (2019). Self‐harm risk among adolescents and the phenomenon of the “Blue Whale Challenge”: case series and review of the literature. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 64(2), 638-642.

Mann, J. J., Apter, A., Bertolote, J., Beautrais, A., Currier, D., Haas, A., Hegerl, U., Lonnqvist, J., Malone, K., Marusic, A., Mehlum, L., Patton, G., Phillips, M., Rutz, W., Rihmer, Z., Schmidtke, A., Shaffer, D., Silverman, M., Takahashi, Y., … & Hendin, H. (2005). Suicide prevention strategies: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(16), 2064–2074).

Mueller, A. S. (2017). Does the media matter to suicide?: Examining the social dynamics surrounding media reporting on suicide in a suicide-prone community. Social Science and Medicine, 180, 152-159.

Mueller, A. S. & Abrutyn, S. (2015). Suicidal Disclosures among Friends: Using Social Network Data to Understand Suicide Contagion. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 56(1), 131–148.

Muñoz-Sánchez, J.-L., Delgado, C., Sánchez-Prada, A., Pérez-López, M. & Franco-Martín, M. A. (2017). Use of New Technologies in the Prevention of Suicide in Europe: An Exploratory Study. JMIR Mental Health, 4(2), e23.

Muñoz, L. F. & Sánchez, R. (2013). Caracterización de noticias sobre suicidio en medios impresos en Colombia. Revista Colombiana de Psiquiatria, 43(Suppl.1), 12-18.

Myhre, M. & Walby, F. A. (2021). The Impact of a Widely Publicized Celebrity Suicide on Suicide-Related Internet Search Activity. Archives of Suicide Research, 1–7.

Navarro-Gómez, N. (2017). El suicidio en jóvenes en España: cifras y posibles causas. Análisis de los últimos datos disponibles. Clinica y Salud, 28(1), 25-31.

Niederkrotenthaler, T., Voracek, M., Herberth, A., Till, B., Strauss, M., Etzersdorfer, E., Eisenwort, B. & Sonneck, G. (2010). Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide: Werther v. Papageno effects. British Journal of Psychiatry, 197(3), 234–243.

Olmo López, A. & García Fernández, D. (2015). Suicidio y libertad de información: entre la relevancia pública y la responsabilidad. Revista de Comunicación de La SEECI, 38(38), 70.

Padmanathan, P., Carroll, R., Biddle, L., Derges, J., Potokar, J. & Gunnell, D. (2016). Suicide and self-harm related internet use in patients presenting to hospital with self-harm: a cross-sectional study. The Lancet, 388(Suppl. 2), S2.

Patchin, J. W. & Hinduja, S. (2017). Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(6), 761–766.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. London: Sage.

Pérez Camarero, S. (2009). El suicidio adolescente y juvenil en España. Revista de Estudios de Juventud, 84, 126–142. Retrived from

Phillips, D. P. (1974). The influence of suggestion on suicide: substantive and theroretical implications of the Werther effect. American Sociological Review, 39(3), 340–354.

Pirkis, J., Francis, C., Blood, R. W., Burgess, P., Morley, B., Stewart, A. & Putnis, P. (2002). Reporting of suicide in the Australian media. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36(2), 190-197.

Portzky, G. & van Heeringen, K. (2006). Suicide prevention in adolescents: A controlled study of the effectiveness of a school-based psycho-educational program. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 47(9), 910-918.

Riffe D., Lacy, S. & Fico, F. (2014). Analyzing Media Messages: Using Quantitative Content Analysis in Research. New York: Routledge.

Samaritans. (2013). Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide (5th Edition). Retrived from

Sisask, M., Mark, L. & Värnik, A. (2012). Internet comments elicited by media portrayal of a familicide-suicide case. Crisis, 33(4), 222-229.

Stack, S. (2005). Suicide in the Media: A Quantitative Review of Studies Based on Nonfictional Stories. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35(2), 121-133.

Storm, D. (2017). Schools in Alabama warn parents about Blue Whale ‘ suicide game ‘ app. Computerworld.Com Framingham, May, 1-5. Retrived from

Sumner, S. A., Galik, S., Mathieu, J., Ward, M., Kiley, T., Bartholow, B. & Mork, P. (2019). Temporal and geographic patterns of social media posts about an emerging suicide game. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65(1), 94-100.

Tam, J., Tang, W. S. & Fernando, D. J. S. (2007). The internet and suicide: A double-edged tool. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 18(6), 453-455.

Taylor, S. J., Bogdan, R. & DeVault, M. (2016). Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods. A Guidebook and Resource. London, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Ueda, M., Mori, K., Matsubayashi, T. & Sawada, Y. (2017). Tweeting celebrity suicides: Users’ reaction to prominent suicide deaths on Twitter and subsequent increases in actual suicides. Social Science and Medicine, 189, 158-166.

Utterson, M., Daoud, J. & Dutta, R. (2017). Online media reporting of suicides: Analysis of adherence to existing guidelines. BJPsych Bulletin, 41(2), 83-86.

Wang, Y., McKee, M., Torbica, A. & Stuckler, D. (2019). Systematic Literature Review on the Spread of Health-related Misinformation on Social Media. Social Science & Medicine, 240, 112552.

WHO (2014). Preventing suicide. A global imperative. Retrived from

WHO (2017). Preventing suicide. A resource for media professionals. In World Health Organization; International Association for Suicide Prevention. Retrived from;jsessionid=BF13086051B8FD55CFCCACA2F69475A1?sequence=1

WHO (2019). Global health estimates: Leading causes of death. World Health Organisation. Retrived from

Yang, A. C., Tsai, S. J., Yang, C.-H., Shia, B.-C., Fush, J.-L., Wang, S.-J., Peng, C.-K. & Huang, N. E. (2013). Suicide and media reporting: A longitudinal and spatial analysis. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 48(3), 427-435.

Zaborskis, A., Ilionsky, G., Tesler, R. & Heinz, A. (2019). The Association between Cyberbullying, School Bullying, and Suicidality among Adolescents: Findings from the Cross-National Study HBSC in Israel, Lithuania, and Luxembourg. Crisis, 40(2), 100-114.

Zahl, D. L. & Hawton, K. (2004). Media influences on suicidal behaviour: An interview study of young people. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 32(2), 189-198.


Search GoogleScholar


Article Details