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How can the media be an ally in suicide prevention efforts?

Reporting on suicides is complex. It is important for journalists, reporters, editors, and other media professionals to be aware that the manner in which the media covers suicide can influence behaviour negatively, adding to distress or leading to a contagion, or positively, by providing hope, removing stigma and encourage help-seeking. Evidence shows that 1-2% of suicides can be related to media reporting, which means if there are 800,000 people a year dying by suicide, media reporting can prevent 8,000 to 16,000 of these deaths.

Thus, the media can be a crucial ally in efforts toward suicide prevention. It is strongly recommended that the media stay away from sensational portrayals of suicide. Rather than focusing on isolated incidents, it would be helpful to think and write about suicide as a larger public health and societal issue. Journalists should use their voice and platform for educating readers about suicide, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviour.

Guidelines

When reporting on suicide, it is recommended to follow guidelines that highlight practices toward responsible reporting:

Help-seeking information

It is recommended that all reports on suicide promote help-seeking and alternatives to suicide. One way to do this is ensure all reports on suicide provide accurate information about support resources. Here is a consolidated list of suicide prevention helplines that can be used:

Suicide Prevention Helplines – The Health Collective India

Please note, it is the responsibility of the media house/media person to ensure the helpline or resource they endorse or reference is relevant, operational and up to date.

Further resources

Project SIREN in the news