A qualitative analysis of self-harm and suicide in Sri Lankan printed newspapers

Jane Brandt Sørensen*, Melissa Pearson, Gregory Armstrong, Martin Wolf Andersen, Manjula Weerasinghe, Keith Hawton, Flemming Konradsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Media reporting may influence suicidal behavior. In-depth exploration of how self-harm and suicide are portrayed in newspaper articles in a middle-income country such as Sri Lanka is lacking. Aims: We aimed to explore how self-harm and suicide are portrayed in Sri Lankan printed newspapers. Method: Seven English- and Sinhala-language Sri Lankan newspapers were screened for articles reporting on self-harm and suicide (December 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015). A thematic analysis was conducted. Results: In the 78 articles identified for analysis, certain aspects were overemphasized (inappropriate behavior) and others underemphasized (alcohol and complexities of self-harm). Explanations of self-harm were one-sided and a suicide prevention narrative was lacking. Limitations: Another time-frame and inclusion of Tamil newspapers as well as social media and online publications would provide additional understanding. Conclusion: The study found an indication of simplistic reporting. Greater focus on prevention and a nuanced portrayal of self-harm could reduce stigma and imitative behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-63
Number of pages8
JournalCrisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
Issue number1
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Media
  • Self-harm
  • Sri Lanka
  • Suicide
  • Thematic analysis


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