The suicide of actress Marilyn Monroe was associated with a 12% increase in suicide (Phillips, 1974). On the other hand, the most complex study to date of television coverage analyzed the effect of 87 television suicide media stories (1973–1984) on the national incidence of teenage suicide. It determined that there was no imitative effect in 65 of 69 regression analyses (Kessler, Downey, Milavsky & Stipp, 1988).
The few findings supporting a copycat effect tended to involve well-known or celebrity models. More generally, an analysis of 42 studies on nonfictional and fictional media impacts on suicide determined that less than half of the findings were significant variables. (Stack, 2000).
This "silence" has got to change.
Paradoxically today, mostly only "celebrity" suicides are reported - the worst kind to report for "copy-cat" responses - while many other of relative unknowns are not reported at all - or worse are "half" reported (they go missing - but any account of recovery disappears out of the newspaper.) Another interesting observation is that females deaths tend to elicit a larger copycat effect than male suicides - which may reflect a number of social factors. My conclusion is that unknown male suicides have a prophylactic impact.
If people knew of the numbers of suicide - there would be an outcry against it and I believe more effective preventative action taken. Now, perhaps it would increase the numbers - but they are already so high - it is hard to tell if it can get any worse.
University of King's College Journalism School: "Suicide: Breaking Media Silence - Journalists struggle with how to cover the sad taboo." (http://kjr.kingsjournalism.com/?p=6294)
CMHA Media Guidelines on Reporting Suicides: (http://www.suicideprevention.ca/media-guidelines-2/)
1) Suicide in the Media: A Quantitative Review of Studies Based on Nonfictional Stories. Steven Stack, PhD. 2005 Wayne State University.