Crisis Centre staff are always pleased to help the media in any way they can.
These media guidelines emphasize responsible reporting about suicide.
The Contagion Effect
Research has shown that there is a link between high profile media coverage of suicide and the contagion effect (copycat suicides). This coverage could include front page and simplistic headlines, repetitious coverage, and information about suicidal method. Youth, who may strongly identify with the suicide victim, are at greatest risk, especially if a suicide is presented as a glorified or romanticized event. The more publicity a suicide story receives, the greater the increase in suicides.
Responsible reporting of suicide can help prevent copycat suicidal attempts and deaths.
Media Reports Should Avoid:
- Running stories about suicide on the front page or as the lead story of a news broadcast
- Having a sensational, overly simplistic headline and including the word ‘suicide’ in the headline
- Engaging in repetitive, ongoing or excessive reporting of suicide in the news
- Providing details about the suicide, how the suicide was completed, or the use of dramatic photographs related to the suicide – of the person or of the location of the suicide
- Presenting simplistic cause-effect explanations for suicide such as “Teen kills himself because he failed a test”
- Glorifying suicide or people who commit suicide
- Presenting suicide as a tool for accomplishing certain ends
- Focusing solely on the suicide completer’s positive characteristics in a glorifying manner
- Mentioning other past suicides as part of the news story or hinting at a suicide epidemic
Media Reports Should Include:
- An educational component describing the warning signs for suicide and where to go for help (counselling services, a crisis line, mental health services)
- Identifying the range of alternatives to suicide and providing a list of resources in the community, such as local mental health centres, crisis centres, family physicians, local hospitals and support groups
Suicide Warning Signs
It is important to mention that while 80 per cent of those considering, attempted or have completed suicide give off warning signs, 20 per cent do not.
- Sudden marked changes in behavior or appearance
- Talking, joking, writing, or becoming increasingly preoccupied with suicide and death e.g. “I might as well be dead”
- Preparations for death, such as giving away possessions
- A previous suicide attempt
- Decline in school or work attendance/performance
- Expressions of a sense of hopelessness and/or helplessness
- Sudden losses e.g. financial, relationship break-up, death of a loved one
- Sudden changes in eating and sleeping patterns
How You Can Help/Where To Find Help
- Ask a person directly if (s)he is considering suicide. This will not ‘give them the idea’, but it does show that you care and are taking them seriously
- Listen and provide non-judgmental support
- Arrange for the person to get help, whether from a crisis centre, hospital, mental health centre, or another local resource
- Do not leave a suicidal person alone
- Do not agree to keep another person’s suicidal thoughts a secret
Media Contact: Kyle Tiney
P. 604-872-1811 ext. 225 | E. firstname.lastname@example.org