Any death is considered a tragedy, death by suicide is no different. It is important for those reporting suicide to understand how to report it, in order to respect the privacy of the victim’s family and not entice those with mental health issues to replicate this action. Studies have shown that the reporting can increase the likelihood of suicide ideation amongst vulnerable individuals.  Therefore, showing sensitivity and respect are integral.

Here are some tips and points to consider:

Report Scientific Facts

1. Suicide is a public health issue that can be both treatable and preventable.

The majority of suicide cases are the result of underlying mental health issues.

2. Suicide is multi-factorial.

Avoid reporting that death by suicide was preceded by a certain event, such as job loss, bad grades or divorce as it leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading perception of suicide. Nor should you report suicide as inexplicable or ‘without warning’.
Always mention that there are multiple causes behind suicide, which could be treatable, like psychiatric illnesses for example.

3. Suicide is preventable.

Many victims of suicide have exhibited warning signs. Visit Suicide Warning Signs to learn more about them

4. Suicide is treatable.

Always add statements about the various treatment options available, stories of those who overcame a suicidal crisis and resources for help along with information on how to overcome suicidal thinking and increase coping skills.

5. Suicide is associated with stigma.

Encourage the reader to seek-help if needed and provide the available tools and resources to do so.

Optimal Reporting: Do’s and Don’ts

Poor reporting of suicide in the media can have detrimental effects and lead to copy-cat suicides. Media and online coverage of suicide should not include:

  • Detailed descriptions of the incident
  • Dramatic or sensationalistic headlines and referring to suicide as successful or unsuccessful
  • Glamorizing a death
  • Photos or videos of the location of the suicide
  • Photos or videos of the method of suicide

Psychologists or suicide prevention professionals are best to be quoted as they can offer insights on how to report it and how to prevent it.

It is recommended that you cite Embrace and its national suicide prevention helpline, Embrace Lifeline, for individuals that need help to seek it. The Embrace Lifeline can be reached at 1564.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has prepared a toolkit for media professionals on how to report suicide. Please view it here.