Is “suicide contagion” a real thing? Yes, the experts will tell you. It’s the phenomenon where depressed youth, in reading about their peers across the country taking their own lives to escape torment, get the brilliant idea that they, too, should commit suicide to put an end to things. It’s something we’ve discussed on the site, and in meetings behind the scenes, a number of times. But now we’re being told on KevinMD.com — “social media’s leading physician voice” — that it’s not just our writing about gay kids killing themselves that could be part of the problem. See, when readers merely share blog posts, whether reblogging a Tumblr post or tweeting out a link to a Queerty post about a young person taking his own life, you’re contributing to the problem.
Writing on KevinMD, “preventive medicine specialist” Jay Parkinson points us to the CDC-approved way of writing about teen suicides without encouraging others to do it:
John Doe Jr., 15, of Maplewood Drive, died Friday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. John, the son of Mary and John Doe Sr., was a sophomore at City High School. John had lived in Anytown since moving here 10 years ago from Otherville, where he was born. His funeral was held Sunday. School counselors are available for any students who wish to talk about his death. In addition to his parents, John is survived by his sister, Ann.
And since kids are so hep to the Facebooks and the Twitters and the MySpaces (hah, just kidding with that last one), we need to be extra careful about how we write about LGBT kids who continue to take their own lives. As in, we need to make sure that we aren’t putting our stamp of approval on these actions, nor recommending suicide as a reasonable out. Which means: Absolutely do not check in on Foursquare to “Suicide Note Workshop.”