Portrayal of suicide by media

The law and suicide reporting To help protect vulnerable people there are some restrictions in New Zealand on what can be made public about a suicide or suspected suicide.

Portrayal of suicide by media

Reporting and portrayal of suicidal behaviour in the media may have potentially negative influences and facilitate suicidal acts by people exposed to such stimuli. Recent systematic reviews by others and ourselves unpublished have found overwhelming evidence for such effects.

Media Guidelines for the reporting of suicide | Samaritans

Another factor is similarity between the media stimulus or model and the observer in terms of age, sex, and nationality. An important aspect of the presentation of suicide in the media is that it usually oversimplifies the causes, attributing the act to single factors such as financial disasters, broken relationships, or failure in examinations.

Portrayal of suicide by media

The most common factor leading to suicide, mental illness, is often overlooked. One approach has been to produce guidelines for the media, of which there are now several. Most highlight the desirability of providing accurate facts about causes, including due emphasis on mental health problems.

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One potential drawback of guidelines is that, in isolation, they may be seen as dictating what the media can or cannot do and as threatening freedom of speech. Firstly, for them to have credibility with authorities in the media and with journalists they must be based on evidence.

Secondly, they should be produced ideally as a collaboration between researchers, public health policy makers, and senior media personnel.

Portrayal of suicide by media

Thirdly, which is perhaps most difficult, they should be shown to work. Some limited evidence exists of this. In an initiative in Switzerland it was shown that collaboration between researchers and the media resulted in a reduction of sensational and lengthy reports of suicides in newspapers.

Efforts to limit the reporting of subway suicides in Vienna through the collaboration of researchers and journalists were followed by a reduction in the number of suicides and suicide attempts by this method.

Steps in this direction are worth exploring but will also need collaborative initiatives. Their evaluation will present a considerable but surmountable challenge. Possibly the most influential approach to the problem of media and suicide will be through ensuring that training courses for careers in the media pay adequate attention to this important topic.

Similar initiatives should be made available to those already established in media careers. Finally, inappropriate media portrayal and reporting of suicidal behaviour should be immediately highlighted. This should encourage producers and editors to remain aware of their potentially influential role in future suicides.

The authors have received funding for research from Syngenta. Pirkis J, Blood RW. Suicide and the media: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care; The influence of suggestion on suicide:Media Portrayals of Suicide In recent years, there has been growing concern over the reporting by the media of those who die by suicide.

Various groups, such as the Centers for Disease Control (), the World Health Organization and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) (WHO & IASP, ), have proposed recommendations. Research shows that inappropriate reporting of suicide may lead to imitative or ‘imitational’ behaviour, so Samaritans publishes Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and has been working with the media for more than two decades, providing expert advice on the portrayal of suicide.

The portrayal of teenage girls in the media is a controversial moral issue because of the cultural sensitivity and the perceived intrusiveness of the subject.


This issue primarily concerns the excessiveness of sexual content and unbecoming images of young women exposed through the media. Greater restrictions should be placed on the portrayal of suicide in TV dramas to prevent encouraging copycats, say MPs.

In a report on the government’s suicide prevention strategy, the House of. Dec 14,  · Reporting and portrayal of suicidal behaviour in the media may have potentially negative influences and facilitate suicidal acts by people exposed to such stimuli.

IMPROVING PORTRAYAL OF SUICIDE IN THE MEDIA 41 training (presented via workshops, personal briefings, websites, etc.), including presenting them with evidence about the negative impacts of irresponsible reporting.

Media Guidelines for the reporting of suicide | Samaritans