With suicide being the second leading
cause of death among adolescents, especially between ages 13-30 (World Health
Organization, 2012), suicidal behavior is a growing cause for concern in
Malaysia as suicide rates have increased by a staggering 61% over the past 43 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.
Music plays an integral role in the
lives of youth and adolescents. Studies reported that teenagers spend an average
of approximately 2.7 hours listening to music per day. A further studied showed
that an average of 9.3 out of 10 adolescents possess a form of a music player. Listening
to popular music is considered by society to be a part of the phase of growing
up. Music is important as it is a form of entertainment. It provides youth with
the cure for boredom and assists in relieving ongoing tension, it is an escape
for youths who need distractions from problems and issues in their lives. Music
has been reported to assist adolescents in dealing with loneliness as well.
They allow music to dominate their emotional status, as music is known for the
ability to do so.
Adolescents also consume music in
the process of finding their own identity. Their music genre preference assists
them in discovering what type of person they are, and also assists them in achieving
group identity among peers, and assimilation into the youth culture. Authors
have also suggested that adolescents’ music preference may possibly reveal the
level of hardships at this stage, as well as possessing the ability to provide adolescents
with the means to resolve past conflicts related to their developmental stage. Music
is an extremely integral and influential element in the lives of youths and
adolescents across every continent. Adolescents’ music preference and their interpretations
of it vary with age, culture, and ethnicity.
Past research had been done on the
links between suicidal portrayals in media to suicidal risks factors in reality
among youth and adolescents. However, the significance of this research is that
it 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, specifically music.
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?