The way the media talks about suicide matters

The way the media reports on suicides can affect the likelihood of the suicide contagion (or “copycat”) phenomenon. There are a number of organizations that have put together media guidelines for reporting on suicides, and this is a summary of some of their recommendations.

Do’s:

  • include local crisis line information and other community resources
  • include warning signs and information about what to do
  • report on suicide as a public health issue
  • get information from suicide prevention experts
  • use the terms “died by suicide”, “completed suicide” or “killed him/herself”
  • look for links to broader social issues
  • if possible provider education the links between suicide and other issues such as mental illness and substance misuse
  • avoid the use of language that normalizes suicide or presents it as a solution to problems
  • word headlines carefully, and avoid using the word “suicide”
  • be particularly careful when reporting celebrity suicides
  • avoid printing a photo of the person who completed suicide, and if one is used it should not be displayed prominently

Don’ts:

  • don’t use sensationalist headlines
  • don’t use prominent placement (e.g. front page) or undue repetition
  • don’t use photos of the location/method of death, grieving friends/family
  • don’t describe a suicide as inexplicable or without warning
  • don’t quote/interview first responders about cause of suicide
  • don’t describe suicide as “successful” or “unsuccessful”/”failed”
  • don’t report specific details of the method
  • don’t offer over-simplified reasons for the suicide
  • don’t romanticize the suicide
  • don’t present a melodramatic depiction of suicide or its after-effects on others
  • don’t label certain locations as “hot spots” for suicide
  • don’t use hyperbolic descriptions like “suicide epidemic”
  • don’t publish suicide notes

Sources:

reportingonsuicide.org

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Samaritans

World Health Organization

Image credit: geralt on Pixabay

Originally published at mentalhealthathome.wordpress.com on July 10, 2018.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org