Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
While it is a myth that talking about suicide can cause someone to make an attempt, it is critical that any messaging or reporting that occurs around deaths by suicide is in line with current best practices, in order to prevent possible suicide contagion.
Especially dangerous are stories that explicitly describe the suicide method, use dramatic/ graphic headlines or images, and sensationalizes or glamorizes a death. Covering suicide carefully, however can change public misperceptions and encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.
|Instead of This||Do This|
|Big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”).||Inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27”).|
|Including photos/videos of the location or method of death, grieving family, friends, memorials or funerals.||Use school/work or family photo; include hotline logo or local crisis phone numbers.|
|Describing recent suicides as an “epidemic, ” “skyrocketing,” or other strong terms.||Carefully investigate the most recent CDC data and use non-sensational words like “rise” or “higher.”|
|Describing a suicide as inexplicable or “without warning.”||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.
|“John Doe left a suicide note saying…”.||“A note from the deceased was found and is being
reviewed by the medical examiner.”
|Investigating and reporting on suicide similar to reporting on crimes.||Report on suicide as a public health issue.|
|Quoting/interviewing police or first responders about the causes of suicide.||Seek advice from suicide prevention experts.|
|Referring to suicide as “successful,” “unsuccessful” or a “failed attempt.”||Describe as “died by suicide” or “completed” or “killed him/herself.”|
Reporting on Suicide
More recommendations for safe reporting can be found at the https://reportingonsuicide.org/recommendations/