Code Book
Suicide Code Book

Suicide Code Book

Definition of Suicide

Suicidal behavior was defined as actions in which a character had the “option of living but attempted or completed the taking of his/her life.” Verbal references to suicidal behavior were not coded as suicidal behavior portrayal. A 5-point suicide explicitness behavior scale was used to measure explicit suicidal behavior portrayal. However, the variable Suicide_mean includes verbal references to suicide.

Suicide Explicitness

0 = No suicide related content or only verbal references to suicide.

1 = No visuals of act: A body (living or dead) may be shown, or the act is entirely implied. Auditory implications of suicide without visuals
e.g., a body in a tub or bloody water but no visuals of cutting wrists; gunshot heard behind a door.

2 = Shows the intent, but not the act: Character prepares method but no action of self-harm
e.g, pointing gun at self, getting razor, tying rope.

3 = Shows the act, but without completion (completion is unclear or unknown). Character explicitly engages in self-harm, but does not die (cutting, etc.)

4 = Shows the act through completion (death). Character is seen or strongly implied to have been killed by self-injury
e.g, seen falling from a building, blood from wounds, or close-up of face or body.


Code for both verbal and physical attempts to stop another character from committing suicide.

0 = no

1 = intervenes but doesn’t stop suicide

2 = intervenes and stops suicide

Contemplates / Mentions / Plans Suicide

Character talks about, dreams about, or plots to kill him or herself. A character references a suicide.

Attempts / Completes Suicide

Includes viable attempts at suicide, unsuccessful (not-completed) suicide attempts, and successful (completed) suicide attempts.

Number of Attempts / Length of Act

Two part question. First, code for the number of attempts and/or completions of suicide. Second, find the point the character spends with suicide agent (e.g., has weapon, drug, or poison in hand, or is standing at the edge of a precipice) and start counting when the character initiates the behavior that directly leads to his/her death. Count only the part where the actual scene of the suicide is. Sometimes you may have to piece together the suicide scene from different parts of the movie to calculate the length of act.

Length of Act

Record the amount of time spent modeling the act of self-injury. Count the number of seconds in which a character is portrayed interacting with the suicidal agent to the degree of modeling that implies a viable suicide attempt. For example, only count the time spent by a character cutting their wrists, not how long they handled the razor prior to cutting; only count how long a gun is held up to the head, not including how long the gun was in their possession. For jumping suicides, start counting when the character has left the ledge not including the time spent on the ledge. For hangings, only count the time portrayed in which the character’s weight is unsupported. For overdose/poison cases, start counting once the character has consumed any of the substance. In some cases you may have to piece together the suicide scene from different parts of the movie to calculate the total length of act.

Approval of Suicide

Are characters shown disapproving of suicide (anger, sadness, regret), approving of suicide (happy, encouraging), or no judgment (indifferent). There are three codes:

0 = disapprove

1 = no judgment

2 = approve

Note any verbal / textual evidence that comments in any way about the death or attempt. For each comment record if it is approving or disapproving. At the end of the movie, tally all of the comments to get one overall value. So if you have 3 disapproving comments and 1 approving comment, your final tally would = 1: disapprove. (3 disapprovals; 1 approval = a positive count of disapprovals coded as a 1). If the number of approving versus disapproving comments is equal, then code this as 2: no judgment. Also use code 2 if there are no portrayed reactions (verbal or textual comments) to the suicide. Only note comments after the act. Ignore statements by the person committing the act. If those making comments are cast as mentally ill (e.g., those in the asylum who witness the ideation of Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly Last Summer (1960), do not code the reaction at all. Only note comments by those who are positively portrayed. So for example in Quo Vadis (1952), when Nero approves of the suicide and Nero is portrayed as a deranged and evil person, do not code his response. Code the response of the Roman senator Seneca who is positively portrayed but not the response of Nero, who is cast as a villain. – from Jamieson (2003).

Character Is Mentally Ill

The character that attempts or commits suicide had been previously portrayed / diagnosed as suffering from a mental illness.

Comedic Suicide

The suicide takes on a comedic role in the movie (i.e., meant to get laughs), or is not a serious or realistic suicide attempt. A parody of a suicide would be considered a comedic suicide (e.g., Beetlejuice).

Noble Suicide

Does the character kill himself or herself to save the life of another character?

Heroic Suicide?

Does the character kill him/herself for some perceived higher means (e.g., Kamikaze, Jihad)?

Reason for suicide

Is there a plausible primary cause given for the suicide? Record how the reason behind a particular suicide is portrayed. If a suicide is “referenced only” then there would be no reason. If contextual clues hint at a reason for a character committing suicide then code this as inconclusive (e.g., character is portrayed as struggling in life or portrayed as mistreated). Conclusive evidence includes literal remarks (suicide note, character comments, such as “He couldn’t stand to live without his wife”) or definitive portrayals of causes such as depression.