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.

Recommendations

Avoid...

Instead...

Instead of This

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

Do This

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

Instead of This

  • Sharing the content of a suicide note.

Do This

  • Report that a note was found and is under review.

Instead of This

  • Describing personal details about the person who died.

Do This

  • Keep information about the person general.

Instead of This

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

Do This

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

Instead of This

  • Oversimplifying or speculating on the reason for the suicide.

Do This

  • Describe suicide warning signs and risk factors (e.g. mental illness, relationship problems) that give suicide context.

Instead of This

  • Sensationalizing details in the headline or story.

Do This

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

Instead of This

  • Glamorizing or romanticizing suicide.

Do This

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

Instead of This

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

Do This

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

Instead of This

  • Prominent placement of stories related to a suicide death in print or in a newscast.

Do This

  • Place a print article inside the paper or magazine and later in a newscast.

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 experts to validate your facts on suicide risk and mental illness.

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