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Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health offers recommendations for reporting on suicide

Posted February 14, 2012

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide: A Fact Sheet

Reporting on suicide can cause hard decisions in newsrooms. Media outlets can be valuable contributors to suicide prevention for their community.

The researchers at the Awareness to Action Youth Suicide Prevention Project at the Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health understand how difficult and how important the media’s role is. Ann D Kirkwood, co-Director of the Project, has 18 years of experience in the media including at the United Press International.

The Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide are developed by an international team of suicide and media experts. The participants include the Associated Press Managing Editors and the National Press Photographers Association.

Here are some facts about suicide and how it is reported in the media.

Suicide is a public health issue.

Suicide is a preventable tragedy. It takes lives, harms families and exacts a human and financial toll on our communities.

Over a four year time span from 2006 to 2009 nearly 1,000 Idahoans died by suicide.

The way media covers suicide can have an influence on potentially suicidal people.

Media coverage can influence behavior positively by encouraging help-seeking.

Reports can provide the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can say, “If you or someone you know has thought about or shown risk factors for suicide, help is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).”

The way media covers suicide can inadvertently lead to suicide contagion or “copycat suicide.”

The risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method or uses dramatic headlines or graphic images.

Repeated or extensive coverage of suicide can sensationalize or glamorize death.

Most people who attempt or complete suicide are struggling with emotional crises or mental illnesses. Glorifying suicide may be perceived by a potentially suicidal person as an attractive solution.

You can offer hope. Use your story to inform readers about the causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in rates and recent treatment advances.

Contact: Ann Kirkwood, 208-373-1767 or 208-861-0429,

Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health