The media can be a powerful tool in suicide prevention. While responsible reporting of suicide can have a positive influence and raise greater awareness of suicide, international research has shown that prominent and sensationalised reports of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviour. The magnitude of the negative effect of media reports is proportional to the amount, duration and prominence of media coverage.
We recommend media professionals to follow the general guidelines for responsible reporting of suicidal behaviour set forth by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP).
Some main points:
- Take the opportunity to debunk common suicide myths
- Use the right phrases and terminologies, and word headlines carefully
- Do not sensationalise, dramatise or normalise suicide and self-harming behaviour, or present suicide as a solution to problems
- Do not attribute the suicide or suicide attempt to a single event or factor
- Do not characterise the act or speculate on the method of death or reason for suicide
- Avoid explicit description of the method used in or site of a suicide or suicide attempt
- Show due consideration and respect to those bereaved by suicide
- Provide information about the help available
- Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide
- Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides
- Recognise that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories about suicide