Reporting on Suicide
Reporting on suicide can be one of the most difficult things to report on, both for care of the people involved and the health of the reporter.
Guidelines from the American Association of Suicidology*:
- In order to discourage copycat suicides, avoid or minimize reporting specific details of the method the victim used in taking his/her life, avoid descriptions of a suicide as unexplainable such as he had everything going for him avoid reporting romanticized versions of the reasons for the suicide, e.g. they wanted to be together for all eternity, and avoid reporting simplistic reasons for suicides such as the boy committed suicide because he has to wear braces on his teeth. The rationale for suicidal thoughts are much deeper.
- Consider how you play the story. Consider minimizing harm by not playing the story in pre-show teases. Consider not using the photo of the person who killed him/herself. It will make the suicide less glamorous to someone considering imitating the act.
- Report suicide in a straightforward manner so suicide does not appear to be exciting. Reports should not make the suicidal person appear admirable nor should they seem to approve of suicide as an alternative.
- Present alternatives to suicide, such as calling a suicide hotline or getting counseling.
- Whenever possible, present examples of positive outcomes of people in suicidal crisis.
Consider educating your audience about the warning signs of suicide published by the American Association of Suicidology.
A person might be suicidal if he or she:
- Talks about committing suicide
- Has trouble eating or sleeping
- Experiences drastic changes in behavior
- Withdraws from friends and/or social activities
- Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Prepares for death by making out a will and final arrangements
- Gives away prized possessions
- Has attempted suicide before
- Takes unnecessary risks
- Has had recent severe losses
- Is preoccupied with death and dying
- Loses interest in their personal appearance
- Increases their use of alcohol or drugs