Responsibly Reporting on Suicide
Since Chester died, there have been countless articles written about him and his death – some speculative, some factual. Some are pure click-bait. Some are well-meaning pieces on depression or suicide prevention, but the writer or editor are not informed on the responsible way to report. These articles continue and as we approach Chester’s birthday and the one year anniversary of his death, I encourage anyone who is reporting on suicide – even if it is just for your blog or personal website – to take a minute to review and learn how to do so responsibly.
There are over 50 research studies done worldwide that show irresponsible reporting on suicide increases the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. Suicide contagion – or the increase of suicide or suicidal behaviors after exposure to a suicide – can be minimized with factual and concise reporting, as well as providing resources for help.
- Avoid repetition: prolonged exposure can increase likelihood of suicide contagion.
- Do not use sensationalist headlines.
- Do not report oversimplified explanations or make assumptions about why.
- Do not give detailed descriptions of how the suicide occurred
- do not publish 911 calls
- do not publish photos or videos of the suicide or of the scene of the suicide
- do not publish suicide notes
- do not publish the autopsy report in full
- Do not glorify or imply that the death was effective in achieving a personal goal.
- do not publish photos of grieving family members or friends
- do not publish photos of funerals or memorials.
- Hotlines, emergency contacts, mental health resources should ALWAYS be included.
- Consider quoting a suicide prevention expert on causes and treatments.
- Inform readers about the causes of suicide, warning signs, treatment options and advances.
- Consider including a story about someone who overcame a suicidal crisis.
By taking these steps, you will be part of the solution in helping reduce suicide contagion. You will also be making a tragic situation more bearable for the suicide loss survivors. Losing Chester was painful enough on its own. Being exposed to sensationalist headlines, paparazzi and speculation on why he had died made it even more painful for his family and friends. Covering suicide should never be for entertainment, click-bait, or profit.
In case you or someone you know needs support, here are some resources:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
Crisis Text Line, the free, nationwide, 24/7 text message service for people in crisis, is here to support. For support in the United States, text HELLO to 741741 or message at facebook.com/CrisisTextLine.
For support outside the US, find resources at http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html