opinion

Why we should never have been told the details of how Avicii died.

Content warning: This story discusses mental health and suicide which may be triggering for some readers.

He was the bright-eyed, blonde-haired 28-year-old with the skills, brain and creativity to make music with the power to reach millions of ears across age, across gender and across the world.

His name was Tim Bergling, but of course, we knew him as Avicii.

“Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions,” his family said in a statement, released Thursday, some two weeks after his death. “An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most — music.

“Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight,” the statement went on.

“Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed. The person you were and your music will keep your memory alive.”

The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the complexities of reporting on suicide. Does the media have a responsibility to share these stories? Post continues…

While Avicii’s story will not end – for, as his family said, his music is his legacy –  that’s certainly where the story of his death should have.

In the days after his family released their final statement, news has surfaced once again. This time, graphic reports have been published about the very private, very complex nature and method of his death.

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But we should never have been told the details about how Avicii died.

Not least because it’s a gross invasion of privacy, but because it’s the most damaging way we can discuss death related to mental health.

Consider this, from Mindframe, on the damage we do when talking about suicide so explicitly:

Research from more than 100 international studies suggests reporting about suicide deaths has been associated with increased rates of suicide and suicide attempts following reporting. Risk generally increases where the reporting focuses on an individual who has died (especially celebrities), where the reporting is prominent and repeated, where the death is glamourised or glorified and where the method and location is detailed.

We know that studies show a significant relationship between media reporting of suicide and increases in suicidal behaviour. We know that rates of suicide are generally three to four times higher among males than females. We know that largely, talking about suicide in such an explicit way is unhelpful and can ultimately be deadly.

Of course, you can blame news outlets for forcing the information into the public sphere with callous disregard for public health. Or, you can take the power back. You can refuse to engage with content and pieces that do very real damage, denying the stories your clicks and in turn robbing news outlets of any motivation to publish in the first place.

Because you’re not just dignifying Avicii by taking this stance. You’re refusing to take part in a conversation that could cost lives.

If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety and need help, or just someone to chat to, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636. 

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