These Stock Images of Suicidal People Are Ridiculous

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Some things are easy to illustrate with a stock photo — if you want a photo of kids playing or a sunset or an elderly couple, stock-photo services have you covered. Other, more fraught things are not good choices for stock-photo illustrations. Suicide is a very good example. Inspired by a tweet from Vox’s Dylan Matthews, Science of Us took a deep dive into the world of stock-photo depictions of people who are considering ending their lives. The results are … well, see for yourself:

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Photo: MackoFlower/Getty Images
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Photo: Mehmed Zelkovic/Getty Images
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Photo: YouraPechkin/Getty Images
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Photo: John Lund/Blend Images/Corbis
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Suicide: Blond woman in a party dress on a bed with drugsPhoto: Astra Production/Getty Images
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Photo: Frank Rothe/Corbis
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Photo: Glowimages/Getty Images

Suicide is a difficult enough thing to talk about, let alone illustrate — a no-win proposition from a stock-photo standpoint. So maybe the best bet for editors, rather than choosing a photo that sexualizes suicide or makes suicidal people look completely unhinged or tries to be quirky, is to stick to that old standby, the sad person stock photo. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s less embarrassing and definitely less offensive.