Concerning wave of negative content on suicide

The recent news surrounding Netflix's new drama series 13 Reasons Why and online "game" Blue Whale is distressing, and we should be concerned about this new wave of negative media influence around suicide (MOE issues advisories on suicide and distress; May 6).

The drama series 13 Reasons Why exposes viewers to highly emotional and graphic messaging and imagery, including explicit exposure to suicide methods.

This is despite international best practices and media guidelines set forth by the World Health Organisation.

The insensitive depiction of suicide is a loose cannon which could give rise to copy-cat suicides and a misconstrued perception of those at risk of suicide.

As a parent, I would not recommend that children and adolescents watch this show at all.

  • HELPLINES

  • Samaritans Of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

    Singapore Association For Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

    Institute Of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222

    Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

    Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

    Tinkle Friend (for primary school-aged children): 1800-274-4788

Blue Whale preys on the basic need for social acceptance at a delicate age where teenagers' sense of self and identity may still be undefined.

While I would like to believe that majority of the teenage population is resilient enough to recognise the game as a twisted and unwelcome prank, the impact of the game as a mechanism for encouraging suicide ideation should not be dismissed.

The game can also act as a trigger for the vulnerable who are already at risk of suicide. This is an additional negative impact via social media which is of great concern to all professionals trying to do suicide prevention work, especially here at Samaritans of Singapore.

The best preventive measure would be for all in the community to be on a greater lookout for such negative content in the media, educate others to avoid them, and to be attentive to their loved ones by reinforcing social and emotional support for those they may be concerned about.

Christine Wong (Ms)

Executive Director

Samaritans of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Concerning wave of negative content on suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe