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

Recommendations

Following these recommendations can assist in safe reporting on suicide.

Avoid...

Instead...

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

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

  • AVOID SAYING:

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

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    Kate Spade died by suicide in her Manhattan home.


Why?

Details and graphic images may give rise to thoughts of suicide in others by making it seem more realistic.

  • Sharing the content of a suicide note.

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

  • AVOID SAYING:

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

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    A note was found on the computer.


Why?

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.

  • AVOID SAYING:

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

  • INSTEAD SAY:

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


Why?

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

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

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

  • AVOID SAYING:

    John took his own life because he lost his job.

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    After years of battling depression, John died by suicide.


Why?

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

  • Oversimplifying pr speculating on the reason for the suicide.

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

  • AVOID SAYING:

    John died suddenly without any warning.

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    John struggled with depression and alcohol addiction for many years.


Why?

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.

  • AVOID SAYING:

    In Avicii's death, suicde details emerge.

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    Avicii Dies by Suicide.


Why?

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.

  • AVOID SAYING:

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

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    Sam deeply cared about his family.


Why?

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

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

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

  • AVOID SAYING:

    Suicide is an epidemic in the United States.

  • INSTEAD SAY:

    Data shows a rise in suicide deaths from last year.


Why?

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

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 warning signs of suicide risk as well as hotline and treatment resources. At a minimum, include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and 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 “completed” 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 reportingonmassshootings.org

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..