With suicide being the second leading
cause of death among youth, specifically between ages 15-29 (World Health
Organization, 2012), suicidal behavior is a growing cause for concern in
Malaysia as suicide rates have increased by a staggering 60% over the past 45 years
(Ministry of Health and the Malaysian Psychiatric Association, 2014). However,
many have blamed suicide cases in Malaysia to be caused by the influence of the
western media exposure, more specifically, music. It is a known fact that media,
especially music, influences emotions and perceptions of individuals. Different
genres provoking different emotions from individuals. Heavy metal stereotypically
provoking anger and rebellion, and country stereotypically provoking sadness (Research
Links Music and Listeners’ Emotions, 2003, pp 2).
Music is undoubtedly able to influence
the emotions and perceptions of individuals, and the lyrical content of certain
songs found in certain genres are claimed to provoke suicidal thoughts in the
youths of Malaysia, as they are portrayed in the songs.
Studies show that teenagers spend an
average of approximately 2.5 hours of music per day, and almost 9 out of 10
adolescents and teens possess a form of a music player. Music plays an integral
role in the socialization of children and adolescents. Listening to popular
music is considered by society to be a part of the phase of growing up. Music
provides youth with entertainment to help relieve tension and is a cure for boredom.
It also serves as a distraction from problems and ongoing issues in the lives
of these adolescents. Some studies have reported that adolescents use music to
deal with loneliness and allow it to take control of their emotional status or
mood, as music is known for the ability to do so.
Adolescents use music in the process
of their identity formation, and their music preference provides them the means
to achieve group identity among peers, and integration into the youth culture.
Some authors have suggested that music provides adolescents with the means to resolve
unconscious, past conflicts related to their particular developmental stage, and
that their music preference also might reflect the level of turmoil of this
stage. Music also possesses the ability to provide a background for romance and
serve as the basis for establishing relationships in diverse settings. Music is a very influential item in the lives
of youths and adolescents worldwide. Adolescents’ music choice and their reactions
to and interpretations of it vary with age, culture, and ethnicity.
Past research has been done on the
links between suicidal ideation in media to suicidal tendencies in real life
among youth. (Pirkis & Blood, 2001b; Stack, 2005; Stack & Bowman,
2008). Significant increases of suicides in the population worldwide was reported
ever since the existence of suicide portrayals in the media.
However, the significance of this
paper is that this research targets the worrying increase in suicide rates specifically
in Malaysia. The domineering Asian culture present in Malaysia has been proven
to be positively associated with suicidal tendencies in the youths of Malaysia.
I found that the second most perceived leading cause of suicide among youths
and adolescents in Malaysia is the pressure of education, put on them by parents
and/or guardians. Despite that, as mentioned above, many have blamed suicide
cases in Malaysia to be caused by the influence of the western media exposure,
The purpose of this research is to
find out if music does, in fact, have any effect on suicidal tendencies among
youths and adolescents in Malaysia. Are the claims true that music acts as a
catharsis for suicidality? If, however, music does in fact have any effect on
an individual’s suicidal tendencies, how does it do so? And why?