Report on Suicide

Best Practices and Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide

Media Plays an Important Role in Preventing Suicide

  • Over 100 studies worldwide have found that risk of contagion is real and responsible reporting can reduce the risk of additional suicides.
  • Covering suicide carefully can change perceptions, dispel myths and inform the public on the complexities of the issue.
  • Media reports can result in help-seeking when they include helpful resources and messages of hope and recovery


Following these recommendations can assist in safe reporting on suicide.



  • Describing or depicting the method and location of the suicide.

  • Report the death as a suicide; keep information about the location general.


    Kate Spade hung herself with a scarf on the closet door in her bedroom.


    Kate Spade died by suicide in her Manhattan home.


Graphic details and images of suicide methods may increase risk of suicide attempt or death for vulnerable, at-risk individuals.

  • Sharing the content of a suicide note.

  • Report that a note was found and exclude further details.


    A note was found explaining why she wanted to end her life including financial troubles.


    A note was found on the computer.


The content can be taken out of context and lead some to over-identify with the person who died and reasons for attempting suicide.

  • Describing intimate details about the person who died.

  • Keep information about the person general.


    John Doe went to East High School, was captain of the swim team, class president, and popular.


    John Doe went to East High School and had many friends.


Sharing personal information can lead some to over-identify with the person who died.

  • Presenting suicide as a common or acceptable response to hardship.

  • Report that coping skills, support, and treatment work for most people who have thought about suicide.


    John took his own life because he lost his job.


    After years of battling depression, John died by suicide.


Suicide is not a common reaction to adversity or mental illness.

  • Oversimplifying or speculating on the reason for the suicide.

  • Describe warning signs and risk factors, including mental illness, that give the suicide context.


    John died suddenly without any warning.


    John struggled with depression and alcohol addiction for many years.


Suicide is complex and rarely can be attributed to a single cause. Speculating perpetuates myths and misconceptions about suicide.

  • Sensationalizing details in the headline or story.

  • Report on the death using facts and languages that are sensitive to a grieving family.


    In Avicii's death, suicde details emerge.


    Avicii Dies by Suicide.


Sensational language in headlines and stories draws unnecessary attention to a death by suicide.

  • Glamorizing or romanticizing suicide.

  • Provide context and facts to counter perceptions that the suicide was tied to heroism, honor, or loyalty to an individual or group.


    To save his family, Sam took out a life insurance policy.


    Sam deeply cared about his family.


Vulnerable individuals may view suicide as a way to draw positive attention or secure their legacy.

  • Overstating the problem of suicide by using descriptors like "epidemic" or "skyrocketing".

  • Research the best available data and use words like "increase" or "rise".


    Suicide is an epidemic in the United States.


    Data shows a rise in suicide deaths from last year.


This language is inaccurate and contributes to a narrative that suicide is common and not preventable.

Checklist for Responsible Reporting

Report suicide as a public health issue

Including stories on hope, healing, and recovery may reduce the risk of contagion.

Include Resources

Provide information on the warning signs of suicide as well as hotline and treatment resources. At a minimum, include the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line (listed below) or local crisis phone numbers.

Use Appropriate Language

Certain phrases and words can further stigmatize suicide, spread myths, and undermine suicide prevention objectives such as “committed suicide” or referring to suicide as “successful,” “unsuccessful” or a “failed attempt.” Instead use, “died by suicide” or “killed him/herself.”

Emphasize Help and Hope

Stories of recovery through help-seeking and positive coping skills are powerful, especially when they come from people who have experienced suicide risk.

Ask an Expert

Interview suicide prevention or mental health expeerts to ensure that you're sharing factual information about suicide and mental illness.

Reporting Under Unusual Circumstances

A mass shooting

where a perpetrator takes his or her life is different from an isolated suicide. Recommendations for reporting on mass shootings can be found at

A homicide-suicide

is also different from an isolated suicide. The circumstances are often complex in these incidents, as they are in suicide. To minimize fear in the community, avoid speculation on motive and cite facts and statements that indicate that such events are rare. Show sensitivity to survivors in your interviews and reporting. Highlight research that shows most perpetrators of homicide-suicide have mental health or substance use problems, but remind readers that most people who experience mental illness are nonviolent..

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

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a 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

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:

  • 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 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988
  • Take the person to an emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional