December 10, 2012
Reporting Suicide: Avoid Oversimplification, Encourage Public Understanding
In light of recent events, media professionals may find helpful the following guidelines on the responsible reporting of suicide:
Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide.
- Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter-related causes. Accounts which try to explain a suicide on the basis of a single incident should be challenged.
- Over-simplistic accounts of a person's suicide become problematic if another vulnerable person identifies with the reason put forward for someone taking their life and may present suicide as a logical option for them.
Encourage public understanding of the complexity of suicide.
- People don’t decide to take their own life in response to a single event, however painful that event may be, and social conditions alone cannot explain suicide either. The reasons an individual takes their own life are manifold, and suicide should not be portrayed as the inevitable outcome of serious personal problems.
- Discussing the risk factors encourages a better understanding of suicide as part of a much wider issue and challenge for society.
Read in full: Media Guidelines for Responsible Reporting of Suicide
- Suicide should be reported on as an important means of raising awareness, promoting greater understanding and encouraging those experiencing similar difficulties to reach out and seek the help that they need.
- However, a significant body of research exists which demonstrates how certain ways of reporting on suicide can lead to copycat behaviour.
- It is therefore important to consider the effect which a media portrayal of suicide may have on somebody in distress.
Headline would be happy to provide training or simply advice on the issues involved in reporting on these important issues. Contact 01 8601549, firstname.lastname@example.org or @HeadlineIreland