We’ve all heard the expression, “Well if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too? ” from our parents, or other adult figure-type person. In today’s society, adolescents seem to be taking this phrase to a new level. As the media continues to abuse the popularity of the too-thin actors and actresses, exploit famous persons’ suicides, and portray ‘problems’ in general as being ‘cool’ with TV shows focused on rehab circles featuring those popular people our culture knows and loves, more and more young people are finding reasons to copycat these problematic ‘role models’, resulting in a crisis within the youth.
The depression, low self esteem, eating disorder, and suicide rate disaster within the youth can all be traced back to the media, which tends to glamorize such problems, so that they appeal to adolescents as being the next ‘in’ thing. Suicide is a tremendous issue that is heavily influenced by the media. Yourannual List of Ins and Outs, an article which periodically lists tends and fads, listed one year suicide as an “in”. “The ‘In’ Way to Look for Help”, 1) Most emotionally secure people would understand that the listing of suicide as an “in” was a joke and not take it seriously – but mental health practitioners like David Shaffer of Columbia University of Physicians and Surgeons, have done research to prove that the “adolescent suicide rate may rise when the media glamorize suicide”. (“The ‘In’ Way to Look for Help”, 1) Suicide is a serious issue, and although this was meant as a joke, there are some children who actually take things like the previously mentioned article literally.
Although such people/youth may be emotionally unstable already, this bit of “pressure” from society adds to the imbalance. The media has also taken advantage of the celebrities who have killed themselves, making them seem “chic”, or “cool”. Exploitation of such events gives some less stable individuals the impression that these sort of actions are socially acceptable, and that if they feel the need to “escape”, they may commence with taking their lives while seeming “hip” at the same time.
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In a study done at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, a study was done to find what the youth believed the leading cause of suicide to be was. The “most frequently cited cause was pressure to conform and/or perform…as a consequence of peer pressure”. (Edna Heled, 1) Later, when the subjects were asked to specify the degree of their agreement with 29 possible reasons, two of the most agreed upon items were hearing a lot about suicide in the media, and believing that suicide is acceptable or cool. Edna Heled, 3) When asked for possible solutions to reduce the rate of suicide, there were no suggestions to lessening the coverage of suicide in the media. The adolescent view on body image has become a tricky subject. Television, magazines, and the general media have set a standard for both male and females that is difficult for most to achieve. It is now popular for girls to be scary-skinny, and “straight as a board”.
In a study by Hargreaves and Tiggermann, it was found that watching appearance-related commercials “heightened appearance schema activation in early adolescent girls”. In another unnamed experiment covered by Meghan Sinton and Leann Birch, it was found that some girls – although not a large percentage of them – were found to be very affected by the commercials. In the same experiment, it was discovered that mass media was especially influential with girls who were already body self-conscious.
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