Experts warn about media coverage

13th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

13 March 2007, AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands has been shocked by a family tragedy for the second time in the space of a week. A 32-year-old man in Haarlem-Noord killed his mother-in-law on Monday before jumping in front of a train holding his two sons, aged four and six.

13 March 2007

AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands has been shocked by a family tragedy for the second time in the space of a week. A 32-year-old man in Haarlem-Noord killed his mother-in-law on Monday before jumping in front of a train holding his two sons, aged four and six.

Just a week ago the bodies of a mother and two children were found in a home in Hengelo. A domestic tragedy also led to the death of a 30-year-old woman in the Amsterdam IJburg neighbourhood a few weeks ago.

Professor of suicide prevention Ad Kerkhof of the Free University Amsterdam cannot say whether there is any causal connection between the cases, but does say that there may be a copycat effect, he told the Volkskrant today.

Kerkhof thinks that reports in the media about these kinds of incidents can put ideas in the minds of other desperate people. “It has been scientifically proven that reporting on suicide can lead to more suicides. Especially if the reports are detailed.”

After a series of family tragedies in the 1990s, Justice Minister Sorgdrager came to agreements with the board of procurators-general at the public prosecution department that the media would be given less information about these kinds of tragedies.

That led to a temporary decrease in the number of incidents: in 2000 there was only one such domestic tragedy that ended in death, and none in 2001. There were two such cases in 2002, three a year in 2003 and 2004, and five each year in 2005 and 2006. There have already been three this year.

Professor Wim Wolters, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, who urged ten years ago for silence in the media about these cases, said: “Sensational reporting of these incidents can push others over a certain line. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any coverage at all, but that there should be some restraint.”

Age Niels Holstein of the Yvonne van de Ven Stichting – a volunteer organisation for suicide prevention - believes that sensational reporting can give people ideas. “Research in Vienna shows that the number of suicides on train or subway tracks fell by 80 percent when the media stopped reporting on these.”

He primarily criticised reporting that establishes some causal relationship between the method and the reason behind the suicide. He said there is never simply one reason for suicide or domestic tragedies like those in Hengelo or Haarlem. “There are usually a lot of problems, and the people see no way out.”

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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