Safe Media Guidelines

 

It matters how we report on suicide

Preventing suicide is a community effort, and as valued providers of information in all communities, journalists and news companies play a unique role in helping reduce suicide in South Carolina. More than 50 studies (1) indicate certain types of coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration, and prominence of coverage. Read more about safe reporting below and safe messaging at suicidepreventionmessaging.org. (1)

Unsafe Reporting Can Cost lives

Though journalists generally don’t mean to cause harm when reporting on suicide, it’s important we stick to safe reporting guidelines. Unsafely reporting on suicide can contribute to suicide contagion, resulting in more suicides.

“The research is clear: inappropriate messaging of deaths by suicide can trigger others to attempt suicide. Your help is especially important with reporting on the death of Robin Williams, as your story will reach a wide audience, including people already at risk, who may be contemplating suicide.Word choice, phrasing, and content matters. Please take a moment to make sure your reporting is safe. You just might save a life.

I hope Williams’s death will start a thoughtful conversation about suicide and mental health. Take the opportunity to encourage readers struggling with mental health issues to seek the help they need to get well—and stay—healthy. Please see our short guide to safe reporting. Thank you for helping to prevent suicide.” (2)

Robert Gebbia, Chief Executive Officer
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

A few guidelines for Media Reporting

 

Do:

  • Include links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255)

  • Include stories of hope

  • Monitor comment sections to identify hurtful statements, or people expressing suicidal thoughts

  • Contact an expert on suicide to get the facts.

  • Report suicide as a health issue

AVOID:

  • Showing videos or photos of the method or location used

  • Framing suicide in terms of success

    • For example, instead of using “committed suicide,” please say “died by suicide,” and try to avoid using the words “successful” or “failed” while reporting on a suicide attempt.

  • Romanticizing the death

  • Describing suicide rates as skyrocketing, an epidemic, or other strong, potentially stirring terms

  • Publishing text from a suicide note

  • Quoting police or first responders

  • Describing a suicide as inexplicable or without warning

 

 

References

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (2018). Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging. Retrieved from
http://suicidepreventionmessaging.org/ (1)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2019). Unsafe Reporting Can Cost Lives. Retrieved from
https://afsp.org/unsafe-reporting-suicide-can-cost-lives/ (2)