Safe Messaging

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 follows best practices, in order to prevent the possibility of contagion.

Stories that explicitly describe the method of suicide used, use dramatizing or graphic headlines or images, or sensationalize or glamorize a death, can be dangerous. Covering suicide carefully, however, can change public misperceptions ad 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