Friday, May 27, 2011

Suicide: Media can lead to more tragedy

I was disappointed with Mark Volz's report on suicides at Fork Peck ("Indian youths: suicides reach crisis levels," March 21). His article included photographs of the deceased. The lead paragraph gave a specific "how to" of the method used. The overall tone of the article was sensationalistic.
It is well-established that the occurrence of one suicide can lead to another suicide. This phenomenon is termed "copy cat" suicide, "suicide contagion" or "suicide cluster." It is also well-established that how the media reports a suicide can influence whether other suicides will follow.
The World Health Organization has developed guidelines for reporting suicide to minimize other suicides ( These guidelines include:

Williams' Letter to Helena Independent Register

Dear Editor:

Please accept this letter in response to Tami Abdollah’s AP article, “Suicide kits rekindle debate on assisted suicide.”  (May 26, 2011).  I make two points.

First, it is not true that physician-assisted suicide is legal in Montana.  In the 2011 legislature, Senator Blewett’s bill, which would have accomplished that goal, failed.  During the hearing on the bill, SB 167, Senator Blewett also conceded that physician-assisted suicide is not legal in Montana.  He said:  “[U]nder current law, a – there’s nothing to protect the doctor from prosecution.”  See here for transcript of his quote and other quotes to that same effect:

 Second, SB 167 would have imposed Oregon-style assisted suicide on our state.  We do not need the “Oregon Experience.”  Oregon’s regular suicide rate increased after that state legalized physician-assisted suicide.  This is consistent with the idea of a suicide contagion: Normalizing one type of suicide can encourage other different suicides.  In other words, suicide begets suicide.  Montana already has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.  We do not need any more.

Third and finally, if anyone would like to help prevent legalization of assisted suicide in Montana, please contact me at   

        Thank you.  

Bradley D. Williams

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide
& For Living with Dignity
610 North First St, Ste 5, Box 285
Hamilton, MT 59840
406 531 0937