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Media Guidance for the Reporting of Suicide

Media Guidance for the Reporting of Suicide
Person using a computer and phone
© University of Glasgow

There is some evidence to support the notion that media reporting of suicide can influence suicidal behaviours. Therefore the media has responsibilities in terms of safely reporting suicides. Please note however, it is not about censorship. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that at a population level there is guidance for the media, regarding responsible reporting of suicides.

Currently the WHO recommends that:

  • Language which sensationalises or normalises suicide is avoided
  • Language which presents suicide as a solution to a problem is avoided
  • Explicit detail on the method used is avoided
  • Pictures of the death by suicide are not included in the reporting
  • All media reports of suicide contain details about where to seek help

Other organisations have also produced guidance on responsible reporting of suicides. For example:

A summary of key dos and don’ts of reporting suicides are outlined below.

Instead of this Do this
Using big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement (e.g. ‘Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide’) Inform the audience without sensationalising the suicide and minimise prominence (e.g. ‘Kurt Cobain Dead at 27’)
Including photos or videos of the location, method of death, grieving family, friends, memorials, or funerals Use school, work or family photo; include hotline logo or local crisis phone numbers
Describing recent suicides as an ‘epidemic’, ‘skyrocketing’, or other strong terms Carefully investigate the most recent publicly available data and use non-sensational words like ‘“rise” or “higher”
Describing a suicide as ‘inexplicable’ or ‘without warning’ Most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs.  Include the ‘Warning Signs’ and ‘What to Do’ sidebar in your article if possible
John Doe left a suicide note saying… A note from the deceased was found and is being reviewed by the medical examiner
Investigating and reporting on suicide similarly to reporting on crimes Report on suicide as a public health issue
Quoting or interviewing police or first responders about the causes of suicide Seek advice from suicide prevention experts
Referring to suicide as ‘successful’, ‘unsuccessful’, or a ‘failed attempt’  Describe as ‘died by suicide’, or ‘killed him/herself’

Reflection

You may find it interesting to consider how well the WHO recommendations have been adhered to in media reports of high profile individuals who have died by suicide.

If you need to seek support, please access the Wellbeing Resources from Step 1.6.

© University of Glasgow
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Understanding Suicide and Suicide Prevention Strategies in a Global Context

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