A Public Health Emergency: Using the Cause Model to Understand Journalists' Implementation of Suicide Reporting Guidelines

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University of Alabama Libraries

The present dissertation uses the framework of social cognitive theory’s environmental determinant to understand the World Health Organization’s suicide reporting guidelines implementation as a public health intervention. Reporting guidelines like these specifically influence the media environment, having a unique impact on readers who are at risk of death from suicide. Previous research has evaluated not only the effectiveness of these guidelines, but also journalist adherence and perceptions. However, to this date, little research exists regarding journalists in the United States. Therefore, the present study used the CAUSE model to evaluate where gaps exist in the current dissemination of suicide reporting guidelines and their subsequent use. Additionally, the hierarchy of influence was used to understand who within the organization would have the greatest impact on suicide reporting guideline adherence in the newsroom. To achieve this, forty journalism professionals from national and state-level news organizations were surveyed about their awareness, efficacy, use, and willingness to use suicide reporting guidelines. Findings suggest that (a) while many journalists were only somewhat familiar with suicide reporting guidelines, most felt they would be effective at reducing deaths from suicide, (b)they believed that they presently followed these guidelines, and (c) they would be willing to follow them in the future if office leadership supported their use and also used the guidelines in their own work. These results present a fascinating baseline for future research, and also starkly contradict findings in studies of journalism professionals in other countries.

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