On today's date in The Beacon archives, we published:•One day in the email life of Vlasta Molak (2010)
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Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
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In 2007, I first noticed the Enquirer’s Peggy O’Farrell had been given the “suicide beat.” Shortly after, I learned the World Health Organization has standards for journalism and suicide reporting—specifically how news outlets should avoid suicide stories due to the likelihood of increased copycat suicides. I tried to get the Enquirer to stop doing this, and to issue a front page report about safety, but to no avail. Today I see O’Farrell is at it again, spreading the word about strategies for teenagers who wish to kill themselves.
Today’s headline: “Teen’s suicide warning too late.” Here is the bulk of the suicide story:
In the Springfield Township suicide, the second within a week in that community, the teen messaged the friend shortly before noon on MySpace that he planned to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.
The friend, a 17-year-old girl in Texas, immediately tried calling police for help, but didn’t know which agency to contact, said Dave Ausdenmoore, a detective with the Hamilton County Regional Electronics and Computer Investigations task force.
By the time she found a phone number for the Cincinnati Police Department, a secretary immediately put the call through to Ausdenmoore about 12:45 p.m.
“I took it from there,” Ausdenmoore said.
Ausdenmoore then contacted MySpace with the 16-year-old’s user ID, and technicians at the social-networking site were able to tell him that Time Warner Cable was the teen’s Internet provider “within about five minutes,” he said.
Next, he contacted the cable company. A technician there told Ausdenmoore he’d have to fax over an emergency disclosure form so the company could provide the teen’s information.
Ausdenmoore said he sent the form, but then had to wait for the cable company to call back. He said he sat through a conference call with the cable company’s legal department and waited while they verified all of his information.
Getting the information “took about 45 minutes, maybe a little longer,” he said.
He then called the 911 dispatch center, who sent Springfield Township police and paramedics to the teen’s home.
It was too late.
Police found the teen dead when they arrived shortly after 2 p.m.
This is a dangerous drama O’Farrell and the Enquirer have advanced: post to MySpace, and see if someone intervenes before it’s too late. O’Farrell and the Enquirer should be ashamed of themselves. They don’t even include any resources for people struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
Here are some starting points:
*Crisis Care Center Hotline (as listed here): 24 hours / 7 days - (513) 281-CARE (2273)
This latest suicide piece comes just a few weeks after O’Farrell had a field day with a March 1st series in The Enquirer:
In “Survivor wants to share his story,” O’Farrell highlights one teens struggle to overcome thoughts of suicide. For unknown reasons, however, she still detailed his procedure:
Alone, he had the chance, the desire and a way to kill himself.
Beischel doesn’t remember digging out the keys to the locked gun cabinet. He does remember carrying the shotgun to the backyard, loading it and lifting the barrel to his mouth.
He stood there, his finger on the trigger, struggling with the decision.
“I was thinking two things,” he said. “I was going, ‘Just do it. Just pull the trigger.’ But at the same time, I knew I shouldn’t even be thinking of it.”
He thought about his parents asking him, every day, how school had gone.
He dropped the gun and called his father.
O’Farrell wants us to know some details about 14 year old Justin Brown in this article:
“I’m so sorry.”
That’s all Justin Brown wrote in the suicide note he left his family on April 11, 2006.
And O’Farrell also wants us to know the details procedures used by Max Nolan, who thankfully did not succeed:
Max Nolan thought about killing himself for days as September slipped into October. The notion of suicide was a constant, nagging idea.
He did a Google search on suicide, looking for the best way. He read everything he could about Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide.
Then, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Nolan wrote notes to his parents and his best friend, swallowed a handful of Vicodin and waited for darkness. “I really wasn’t planning on doing it that day,” he said, but he was home alone. “For some reason, something clicked.”
Nolan was just beginning his junior year at Sycamore High School. In mid-summer, two Sycamore High students had committed suicide. Their deaths, he said, might have influenced his decision.
She’s actually giving people the idea to search for strategies on Google, and to swallow a handful of Vicodin. How irresponsible! What’s more shocking is the last line in the excerpt above: Nolan acknowledges this decision was influenced by other teens doing the same thing. This is precisely why the World Health Organization has a media kit for handling suicide reporting—and it does not include turning them into special reports and an ongoing series. But with The Enquirer, it looks like they have even assigned O’Farrell as the suicide beat reporter!
The Enquirer should adopt a more responsible policy.
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