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Reporting guidelines

Reporting on suicide in the media has long been a sensitive subject, with media articles possessing the ability to positively and negatively impact actual suicide rates. The following information is a summary of the Mindframe resources, a national, research based initiative which details the principals for safe reporting on suicide and mental illness. More information can be found at www.mindframe-media.info

Issues for journalists and editors to consider

Avoid depicting the method and exercise caution in listing the location 

Research shows that reporting on method has a direct impact on copycat suicides. Reporting on the location of suicides has also resulted in these places becoming ‘popular’ for suicide attempts. 

Place the story in context

Many people who suicide have a mental disorder or a drug-related illness. Where relevant, reporting on the underlying causes of suicide can help dispel the myths that suicide is not related to a person’s mental state. Discussing suicide risk factors promotes a better understanding of suicide as a part of a wider issue within society. 

Language

Ensure that the language used does not glamourise suicide or present it as a solution for problems 

  • Use ‘died by suicide’ or ‘experienced depression’ rather than describing the person as a ‘suicide’ or a ‘depressive’.
  • Use ‘non fatal’ not ‘unsuccessful’, a ‘cluster of deaths or ‘increasing rates’ rather than a ‘suicide epidemic’
  • Avoid using the term ‘committed suicide’, use ‘died by suicide’ or a similar term. 

Include helpline numbers

Include helpline numbers and information about the option for seeking help such as visiting a GP or health provides immediate support for those who may be distressed, or prompted to act, by your story. 

Seek expert advice

When reporting on a suicide is thought to be in the public interest, reports should be based on information from mental health professionals who specialise in working with suicide related issues. Contact our media department or Mindframe (www.mindframe-media.info) for more details.