Another day, another celebrity suicide—and another raft of clickbait headlines.
As someone whose musical tastes were defined by the 90s, the news of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint's death took me back to a packed stadium at Australia's infamous annual music festival, Big Day Out, in 2002.
My recollections of Flint's performance were blinding lights, deafening colours, intense synthesised music and his affectionate screams to the crowd: "All you people at the front here? You're my people. And you people at the back? You're my people."
My immediate thought was about how genuine his energy really was that night. Was he displaying actual adrenaline-fuelled exuberance? Or was he grinning and bearing his inner demons? We'll never know, but I realised it's a question I've asked myself countless times over the last 10 years—as news of the suicides of Robin Williams, Sawyer Sweeten, Kate Spade, Charlotte Dawson, Alexander McQueen, Avicii, and countless others have saturated our screens.
Sensational headlines crop up for months after the suicide of a celebrity, and have done for decades. A set of media guidelines was developed in 1989 for reporting on suicide—but unfortunately, the rise and rise of online news and social has rendered these almost obsolete in favour of clickbaity content.
In the four months following Robin Williams' death, the suicide rate increased 10% amid dramatic memes and explicit reporting by even established media outlets. More than 50 years earlier and before modern statistics even existed, Marilyn Monroe's death triggered a 12% increase in suicides. Studies have shown, over and over, that the way we talk about suicide publicly can have devastating consequences, especially for people similar to the victim in age and gender.
So when I read the headline 'Prodigy frontman revealed 'I'll kill myself' in chilling interview'— insinuating Flint's prediction of his own death—on Australia's 9News today, I dread what's to come.
Traditional and social media outlets need to think longer and harder about their influence on those who are vulnerable and communicate responsibly about these tragic deaths—beyond simply including the standard "If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact Lifeline" at the end of their reports.
Similarly, we as a community can be smart about what we post and avoid words or pictures that could act as deadly arrows.
Doing so could save a life.
The Prodigy's co-founder Liam Howlett said Keith Flint had 'taken his own life'. Famed for his devil-horns haircut and intense stage performances - the iconic 90s musician was performing just last month in New Zealand on a world tour set to run until May. The Essex boy, who once dated Gail Porter, was the face of the rave band and took centre stage on their best-known hit Firestarter, the single which launched him as an icon. Howlett, who founded The Prodigy with Flint in their hometown of Braintree, Essex, wrote: "The news is true. I can't believe I am saying this but our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend. "I'm shell shocked, f****** angry, confused and heart broken r.i.p brother."