Vulnerable individuals may be influenced to engage in imitative behaviors by reports of suicide, particularly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensationalist and/or explicitly describes the method of suicide.
Preventing Suicide – A Resource for Media Professionals, WHO, 2008
It would be making light to suggest, that people commit suicide to copy suicides in the media; evidently other factors have more on an impact on this decision. However media reports can make a difference this is called the Werther effect. Due to this World Health organization and other national agencies have created guidelines for journalists and editors. In the UK, it is the Samaritans that created these guidelines. I became aware of these guidelines due to watching the play Every Brilliant Thing. The Samaritans is a charity in the UK that can be contacted in several ways by those needing support.
Below in case anyone is writing about suicide I have included 10 tips from the Samaritan’s websites. Some tips are obvious, like you do not want to basically give instruction’s exactly how to kill self. In every beautiful thing it also made the point about saying someone committed suicide died painless or instantaneously may make some one else more likely to copy. But then, for the family members and friends you would not want to go into too much details about how the person suffered so it is difficult. In the paly it was also noted about not making the reason for the suicide too simplistic like ‘he lost his job’ because that validates other people who have lots their job to feel the same when actually the issue is probably more complex,.
Suicide reporting – 10 things to remember
- Leave out technical details about the method of suicide, such as describing the type of ligature used or the number and types of pills taken in an overdose. Never suggest that a method is quick, easy, painless or certain to result in death.
- Language matters. Avoid dramatic headlines and terms such as ‘suicide epidemic’ or ‘hot spot’.
- Include references to support groups and places where suicidal people can find help – it really does make a difference.
- Treat social media with particular caution and refrain from mentioning websites or networks that promote or glamorise suicide.
- Avoid dramatic or sensationalist pictures or video.
- Young people are especially vulnerable to negative suicide coverage. Do not give undue prominence to photographs of a young person who has died and avoid repeated use of images such as galleries.
- Try not to give a story undue prominence, for example with a front cover splash.
- Don’t brush over the complex realities of suicide and its impact on those left behind. Remember that people bereaved by suicide are often vulnerable and are more likely to take their own lives than the general population.
- Speculation about the ‘trigger’ for a suicide, even if provided by a close family member, should be avoided.
- Use statistics with caution. Check with Samaritans or the relevant national statistical agency to make sure you have the most recent data and are comparing like with like.
Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide: Werther v. Papageno effectsThomas Niederkrotenthaler, Martin Voracek, Arno Herberth, Benedikt Till, Markus Strauss,Elmar Etzersdorfer, Brigitte Eisenwort and Gernot Sonneck published 2010 British Phycology Journal.
Every beautiful thing paly by Duncan Macmillian..