Changes in internet suicide search volumes following celebrity suicides

Shelby N. Ortiz, Lauren N. Forrest, Thomas J. Fisher, Michael Hughes, April R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Celebrity suicides that are reported heavily in the media may increase risk for others' suicidal behavior. This study examined whether Internet search volumes for suicide-related terms changed after three celebrity suicide deaths (Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and Alexander McQueen) and three celebrities who died by means other than suicide (David Bowie, Azzedine Alaia, and Paul Walker). Suicide search terms included suicide, how to suicide, commit suicide, depression, hanging, and suicide prevention. Observed suicide search volumes in the United States were collected from Google Trends for the 10 weeks before and the 2 weeks following each celebrity's death. Predicted search volumes for the 14 days postdeath were forecasted from the predeath search volumes and predicted search volumes were then compared to the true, observed search volumes. Search volumes for suicide terms significantly increased following Robin Williams' suicide death. Some of the terms increased in search volume following Chester Bennington's and Alexander McQueen's suicide deaths, but not significantly. Most search volumes for nonsuicide celebrity deaths did not change following their deaths. Celebrity suicide deaths can lead to significant, national increases in Internet search volumes for suicide-related terms for celebrities of high prominence. Results highlight the critical importance of reporting suicide deaths in the media responsibly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-380
Number of pages8
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Volume22
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications

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