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For more information Good and bad news The World Health Organisation compiles facts and figures about suicide around the world. See: www.who.int/health_topics/suicide/ and about suicide coverage Australia The WHO Suicide Prevention Project: www.who.int/mental_health Many national government health ministries have A 1995 study of coverage in Australian newspapers found that rates of male suicide increased following reports of suicide, with actual male suicides peaking Media and a department dealing with suicide prevention. In many on the third day after the story appeared. countries there are non-governmental agencies concerned with suicide prevention and support for the relatives and friends of suicides. Austria There were 22 suicides on the Vienna underground in the Suicide A list of such agencies can be found at www.suicide-helplines.org/ 18 months (twice the total for the previous three years) Guidance for journalists from journalists after sensational media coverage of one incident in 1986. The figures dropped dramatically after the media agreed Training for media professionals voluntarily to limit coverage for a time. In consultation with media professionals and suicide prevention agencies, PressWise has devised training Germany modules which can assist journalists to develop In the ten weeks following broadcast of a TV series in responsible approaches to the reporting of suicide. the 1980s featuring the suicide of a student, there was a The modules may be accessed at www.presswise.org.uk/health substantial increase in suicides by the same method. Other useful websites Hong Kong When publicity was given to an unusual method of International Academy for Suicide Research suicide in 1998, nine similar cases were reported within www.uni-wuerzburg.de/IASR a month. Two months later it had become the third most International Association for Suicide Prevention www.med.uio.no/iasp common method, and within two years it was the second Centre for Suicide Research, UK most common method. A study of the first 100 cases cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr revealed similarities between the age, marital status, American Association of Suicidology mental state and financial problems of all victims and www.suicidology.org those reported in the media. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org Mindframe-media, Canberra, Australia UK www.mindframe-media.info In the week following a suicide attempt in a popular TV Suicide Information and Education Centre, Canada series in 1999, there was a 17% increase in reported www.siec.ca/ attempts using the same method. However a study 18 Suicide Research and Prevention Unit, Norway www.med.uio.no/ipsy/ssff months later revealed that the public had absorbed the underlying message about the risks associated with misuse of the tablets involved. www.ifj.org/ www.nuj.org.uk +32-2 235 22 00 +44 (0) 20 7278 7916 US Studies of 'cluster' suicides among young people, using similar methods and soon after each other, strongly suggest imitative behaviour. During a journalists’ strike in Produced by The PressWise Trust the 1960s, when there were no newspapers to report 38 EBC Felix Road Bristol BS5 0HE UK tel: +44 (0) 117 941 5889 email: firstname.lastname@example.org suicides, some evidence emerged of a drop in suicide attempts among women. With the support of Befrienders International Sensitive reporting Avoid sensational headlines, images Challenge ‘myths’ about suicide and language Avoid perpetuating popular misconceptions - like 'those saves lives In the aftermath of a suicide, relatives are especially who threaten suicide are unlikely to do it' or 'if someone vulnerable. They may feel anger, despair, guilt, wants to kill themselves, nothing will stop them'. incomprehension or shame. Publicity makes the situation Our job is to report the facts and to try to explain the worse, particularly for children. Consult with immediate phenomenon, the circumstances and the wider issues. These guidelines have been compiled by family before publishing material that may not have been journalists in consultation with in the public domain. Some may welcome sympathetic suicide prevention agencies. media interest especially if a suicide occurs in unusual Censorship or misinformation about circumstances, but avoid unnecessary intrusion into suicide is unhelpful grief and family privacy. Attitudes towards suicide vary from culture to Their aim is to assist print, broadcast culture, but media professionals should not seek to hide and online colleagues to appreciate the the facts. It is more important for the public to be aware risks associated with suicide coverage Publicising details of suicide methods of the phenomenon than to be ignorant of the warning and suggest simple ways of avoiding can encourage imitation signs or where to go for help to prevent suicide. It may be relevant to indicate how a person has died, Newsrooms should encourage debate among staff, unnecessary harm. but providing too much detail may encourage others to and develop their own policies on suicide coverage. try these methods. Explicit descriptions can also cause Not all suicides are newsworthy. When they additional distress to relatives and friends of the are, it is less likely that others will attempt to deceased, especially children. Put people in touch with suicide prevention agencies take their own lives if media professionals If a suicide story merits coverage there should be space handle the stories responsibly. Avoid speculation, especially about or time to let people know where they can get help if the 'celebrity' suicides issues affect them. Newsrooms should ensure that they Prominent figures are entitled to privacy, even if they have up-to-date contact details of support organisations kill themselves. Beware of gossip and rumours. that can provide advice or counselling. Sensitive reporting includes: Always check your sources and consult with relatives before publishing speculative comment that may be • consideration for the feelings of relatives unfounded, untrue or hurtful to survivors. Journalists are vulnerable too — support colleagues Working in the media involves stress, competition and • avoiding detailed descriptions of Suicide is a complex issue, often linked unusual challenges, in addition to the pressures suicide methods to mental illness individuals face in their private lives. A willingness to It is neither helpful nor accurate to suggest that share concerns and provide support should be a feature • acknowledging the complexities of suicide occurs as a result of a single factor. of professional relationships in the workplace, especially suicidal behaviour Often there will be history of forms of mental illness like when colleagues experience emotional difficulties. depression, and this should be acknowledged. Avoid • providing information about where help giving the impression that suicide is a simple ‘solution’. and advice can be found • acknowledging that sudden death Consider context – suicides in A summary of ‘SUICIDAL BEHAVIOUR AND THE creates problems for family and friends institutions deserve investigation MASS MEDIA: Findings from a systematic review of When people kill themselves while in the care of the the research literature’ by Kathryn Williams and Keith authorities – in hospital, in police custody, in prison, Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, Department of or in other institutions, their deaths may raise important Psychiatry, Oxford University, 2001; can be found at questions about levels of supervision and care. www.presswise.org.uk/health The public interest is best served if suspicions are investigated, and lessons learned that may prevent recurrences.
"The Media and Suicide"