About Project SIREN
India accounts for 36.6% of the global suicide deaths among women and 24.3% among men. When it comes to addressing this issue, the need of the hour is allyship from a range of sectors beyond healthcare. The media is an important ally in efforts toward suicide prevention.
Research has shown that prominent and incessant media coverage of a story of suicide is likely to trigger imitative suicidal behaviour among the vulnerable populations. Sensational portrayals of suicide by the media are correlated with risk of attempted suicide and suicide rates. (Sudak and Sudak, 2008).
Over the years, several suicide prevention experts have advocated for the need of a monitoring mechanism to ensure adherence to guidelines for suicide reporting. This is how ‘SIREN,’ our project rating media reports on suicide, was born!
The IMHO has developed a scorecard to rate media reports on suicide which consists of ten positive and negative parameters each. derived from the WHO guidelines on Media Reporting of Suicides. The WHO guidelines for responsible reporting suggest practices which promote help-seeking behaviour, increase awareness of suicide prevention and provide alternative coping strategies for vulnerable readers, such that it complements efforts to reduce suicides and suicidal behaviour. Such practices work as a protective-factor and motivate vulnerable persons to take alternative actions, seek help in times of crisis and focus on coping strategies.
The scorecard, a ‘SIREN’ for action, is released every quarter, in a series of editions. The scoring framework, methodology and the scorecard for articles is available online for anyone to access. SIREN is a tool for suicide prevention – tracking reports of suicide attempts and deaths by suicide to encourage greater uptake of good reporting practices across media platforms.
So far, the IMHO has collected data for two years, with eight editions from April 2020 – March 2022. For Edition VIII (January – March 2022), the IMHO has scored media reports on suicide from major English-language newspapers and online news publications.
How does the Media Reporting Scorecard work?
Each article is coded for a ‘1’ or a ‘0’ on each of the parameters depending on whether or not it meets the criteria for the parameter. If a criteria is met, it is coded for a ‘1’, else it is coded for a ‘0’. In the end all the 1’s are added for the positive and negative criteria following which the total number arrived at is the score for an article on the positive and negative scale. The score on the negative scale is converted into a negative number. The total positive and negative score for each article and publication are then added to arrive at an average mean positive and negative score. All parameters are given equal weightage on the scorecard. An article can score a maximum of 10/-10 and minimum of 0 on each rating scale.