Media “Suicide by Cop” Portrayals Add to Misunderstanding

Kermit Cole
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A study in Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior finds that representations of “Suicide by Cop” (SBC) in the media misrepresent the reality of people who provoke police officers to kill them.  Whereas one-third of SBC incidents in real life involved people with previous suicide attempts, none in real life did. Relatively few (6%) in fictional representations were chronically depressed, vs. 47% in life, and 77% of fictional SBC stories involved a person who had recently killed someone whereas only 7% in had involved such an incident in actuality. The discrepancy between fiction and reality, the study says, while entertaining, contributes to misunderstand of the problem and its effective prevention.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

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