The Role of Media in Shaping the Suicide Narrative

For a television show or movie to properly depict the realities of suicide, it is essential to ensure that there is a message of hope, even if there is a devastating death that is portrayed, according to CVN Vice President & Suicide Prevention Expert, Dr. Caitlin Thompson.

One such movie that Thompson feels meets the criteria is the 1980 film Ordinary People, starring Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland. IMDB describes the film as the “accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.”

“This is an amazing film that depicts the complexities of suicide/suicidal behavior (and grief in general) so incredibly well,” Thompson says.  “As painful as this film can be, there is a strong message of hope and recovery.  This is so important because we know that, even in the midst of unimaginable pain, people can and do feel better over time, with treatment, and with support.”Blogweek2018

Thompson also cites this article from the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention that summarizes the most responsible ways to explain suicide in both journalism and in entertainment.

Another essential recommendation from Thompson is to post the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at the end of any TV episode/film/article that discusses suicide. That number is 800-273-8255.


By Anthony Guido
CVN Vice President, Communications & Marketing

Note: This blog post was created as CVN’s contribution to SAMHSA’s Blog Week effort around a variety of challenges in the mental health realm. The topic for July 18 is Suicide Depictions in Television and Movies.