Responsible Media Reporting

The media can influence behaviors of the general public. Because of this influence, suicide prevention experts have created media guidelines to avoid negative behaviors like contagion or “copycat” suicide.

Responsible Media Coverage Saves Lives

» Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy; however, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking. Suicide Contagion or “Copycat Suicide” occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.

» Fortunately, reporting on suicide can be accomplished in ways that serve both the truth about the complexities of suicide and the health of the general public. There are steps the media can take to minimize the possibility that its coverage of suicide will contribute to additional suicides. There are also steps the media can take to proactively contribute to raising suicide awareness and preventing suicide.

» The following recommendations were developed by leading experts in suicide prevention and in collaboration with several international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, media organizations, key journalists and Internet safety experts. The recommendations are based on more than 50 international studies on suicide contagion.

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The following recommendations are projects of SAVE and are external links.

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Reporting on Suicide

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Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
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Quick Tips for Covering Suicide

  • More than 50 studies worldwide 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.
  • Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misconceptions and correct myths which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.

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