July 15, 2013
Read Headline's response to a recent piece by Eilis O'Hanlon in the Sunday Independent: Not naming the terrible realities of life won't keep us any safer
Eilis O’Hanlon’s interpretation of the issues involved in reporting on suicide is restrictive and misguided. Internationally and in Ireland, media guidelines for reporting on suicide exist not to police language or impose euphemisms but to facilitate vital discussion of suicide in media so that it is factual and accurate and can provide life-saving information to the one in four of your readers who may be experiencing a mental health problem.
A considerable evidence base from international research and the World Health Organization highlights the fact that graphic and sensationalist coverage of suicide can lead to the copycat effect and more importantly, through responsible reporting media professionals can play a considerable role in suicide prevention and encouraging much needed open discussion on suicide.
The media guidelines are designed to be used pragmatically; each journalist should use the language he or she is most comfortable with. The chief concern is not any particular turn of phrase -the central consideration is the purpose that a given article serves. Contributing to societal awareness and debate is key, but coverage that is voyeuristic and sensational does a disservice to all.