How suicide is portrayed in the media is very important as insensitive reporting could lead to additional suicide attempts or deaths. Several efforts have been made to develop guidelines and recommendations to assist media with appropriate reporting so the issue of suicide is covered but with the emphasis on seeking help and providing hope for those that may be struggling.
The Best Practices and Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide were established using a consensus model developed by SAVE. The process was led by SAVE and included leading national and international suicide prevention, public health and communication’s experts, news organizations, reporters, journalism schools and internet safety experts.
Social networking sites are sometimes used to memorialize those who die by suicide. As such, they need to be monitored for harmful content so that viewers who may be struggling with suicide themselves are not receiving unintended messages that may exacerbate their problems or encourage similar actions. These sites should include referral resources and information on accessing help, as well as providing messages of hope. As an example, when someone on Facebook sees a friend post a suicidal comment they can report the person to Facebook using the Report Suicidal Content link or the report links found throughout the site.
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 this 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.