Report on Suicide

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

Important Points for Covering Suicide

More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration, and prominence of coverage.

Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death. ​Suicide Contagion, or"Copycat Suicide," occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.

Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths, which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.

Do’s and Don'ts

Instead of This

Do This

Instead of This

  • Big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”).

Do This

  • Inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27”).

Instead of This

  • Including photos/videos of the location or method of death, grieving family, friends, memorials, or funerals.

Do This

  • Use school/work or family photo; include hotline logo or local crisis phone numbers.

Instead of This

  • Describing recent suicides as an "epidemic," "skyrocketing," or other strong terms

Do This

  • Carefully investigate the most recent CDC data and use nonsensational words like '"rise" or "higher"

Instead of This

  • Describing a suicide as inexplicable or “without warning.”

Do This

  • Most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. Include the “Warning Signs” and “What to Do” sidebar in your article if possible.

Instead of This

  • “John Doe left a suicide note saying…”

Do This

  • “A note from the deceased was found and is being reviewed by the medical examiner.”

Instead of This

  • Investigating and reporting on suicide similarly to reporting on crimes.

Do This

  • Report on suicide as a public health issue.

Instead of This

  • Quoting/interviewing police or first responders about the causes of suicide.

Do This

  • Seek advice from suicide prevention experts.

Instead of This

  • Referring to suicide as “successful,” “unsuccessful,” or a “failed attempt.”

Do This

  • Describe as “died by suicide,” “completed,” or “killed him/herself.”

Avoid Misinformation and Offer Hope

  • Suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, including psychiatric illnesses that may not have been recognized or treated. However, these illnesses are treatable.
  • Refer to research findings that mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90 percent of people who have died by suicide.
  • Avoid reporting that death by suicide was preceded by a single event, such as a recent job loss, divorce, or bad grades. Reporting like this leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading understanding of suicide.
  • Consider quoting a suicide prevention expert on causes and treatments. Avoid putting expert opinions in a sensationalistic context.
  • Use your story to inform readers about the causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in rates, and recent treatment advances.
  • Add statement(s) about the many treatment options available, stories of those who overcame a suicidal crisis, and resources for help.
  • Include up-to-date local/national resources where readers/viewers can find treatment, information, and advice that promote help-seeking.

Suggestions for Online Media, Message Boards, Bloggers, & Citizen Journalists

  • Bloggers, citizen journalists, and public commentators can help reduce risk of contagion with posts or links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotlines.
  • Include stories of hope and recovery, information on how to overcome suicidal thinking and increase coping skills.
  • The potential for online reports, photos/videos, and stories to go viral makes it vital that online coverage of suicide follow site or industry safety recommendations.
  • Social networking sites often become memorials to the deceased and should be monitored for hurtful comments and for statements that others are considering suicide. Message board guidelines, policies, and procedures could support removal of inappropriate and/or insensitive posts.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • a
  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

What to Do

  • a
  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional