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A cynical, marketing attempt to profit from the suicide of a young girl.

Is this an attempt to profit from suicide?

Trigger warning: This post discusses issues related to suicide and self-harm. It may be triggering for some readers.

People at risk of suicide are among the most vulnerable in our community. That’s why there are strict guidelines around how the media can report suicide; to avoid portraying it in any way that may trigger someone in to act in a copycat way.

This includes visual or written descriptions that could make it look glamorous, romantic, glorified, heroic or positive in any way.

More from Mia Freedman: “Suicide contagion. Does it exist?” 

There are countless studies that prove suicide contagion is real. Those at risk can be influenced by the suicides of others, experts tell us. In their depressed or desperate state, they can be highly suggestible.

So the media, generally, are extremely careful. And never more so than when it’s the suicide of a child. You are unlikely to read about the suicide of children and teenagers, even though these tragedies occur far more often than you’d think.

Simone Battle committed suicide at 22.

Regularly here at Mamamia, including this week, we become aware of child suicides and choose not to write about them, as do most other media organisations.

It’s a difficult decision because some would argue that there are benefits to bringing suicide out of the shadows and shining some public light on it. Public awareness might prompt changes in public policy. An increase to funding for support services.

Closer to home: The most deadly epidemic ravaging Australian schools isn’t about drugs.

But we’re journalists not health professionals. We have to rely on the advice of experts and that is resoundingly clear: the privacy of the children, their families and the welfare of other vulnerable kids is paramount. The risk that other might take their own lives after reading about the suicide of an individual is just too high. Don’t publish.

Music videos though? What about music videos? This morning I saw something that worried the hell out of me.

Last year, the lead singer of G.R.L committed suicide. Her name was Simone Battle and she was 22.

The members of G.R.L. Picture via Instagram.

A few months after her death, her bandmates have released a tribute to Simone, a catchy soaring ballad called Lighthouse along with an accompanying video.

Take a look: (Post continues after video)

From the styling of the four girls to the way some of them touch themselves as they sing. From the glossy depiction of Simone growing from baby to young woman until… well, Simone won’t be growing anymore. It’s over. Her life was snuffed out and that’s the end of her story.

Forever.

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But if you were a vulnerable teenage girl watching this video, would you see a tragic and sudden end and the agonising brutality left behind for everyone who loved Simone? Or would you simply see a universal outpouring of love and grief? I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. I’m not in that headspace. I’m not a health professional.

Simone Battle. Image via Instagram.

Nothing can be done to help Simone now and that is a tragedy. My discomfort is absolutely not about Simone for whom I have nothing but pure sorrow and sympathy. What leaves me hot with anger and cold with fear is that portraying suicide like this may cause more tragedy.

When the brutal death of a suicide victim is treated in such a stylised, sanitised way like it is in this video, it can look almost…..appealing. Romantic. Legendary. It can make suicide victims look like heroes and surely that’s terribly irresponsible and dangerous.

To me, from the outside, this doesn’t reflect the suicide I have seen, the suicide that leaves an unimaginable trail of wreckage behind. Broken hearts and minds and families and lives.

Keep reading: “What if we could eliminate suicide? Entirely.”

And all the while, let’s be honest: this is about money.

An international record company profiting from the suicide of one of its former employees. The proceeds from sales of this single will not go towards suicide prevention or to Simone’s family. All profits will go back to the record company. There is nothing altruistic about this “tribute” single.

It is a cold, hard, cynical marketing response to a very big image problem faced by a band who were just starting to make it big and needed a way to publicly acknowledge the fact that one of its members died.

Simone Battle. Image via Instagram

This band has a massive following among young girls. The suicide of Simone was already a shocking and impossible thing for the band’s young fans to process or for their parents to explain. Now, this song and this video will now become an anthem for every girl who is struggling with bullying, heartbreak, loneliness, isolation, angry parents, bad grades…. all the things that can seem enormous and insurmountable when you’re young and cannot comprehend the life-or-death difference between a temporary problem and the permanent consequence of your actions.

I don’t have a solution. I don’t know what the answer is. But I hold grave fears for the mental health of vulnerable teenagers who can be overwraught, emotional, hormonal and impulsive even on a good day. I fear that the combination of suicide and social media and wildly irresponsible messages like the one in this video will drag more kids, more families into the blackness.

I hope to god I’m wrong.

If you are or someone you know may be at risk of suicide or needs to speak to someone,
please call Life Line on 13 11 14.

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