Media guidelines for the reporting of suicide
Samaritans’ Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide have been produced following extensive consultation with journalists and editors throughout the industry.
They are aimed at those reporting suicide in any media, from factual description to dramatic portrayal.
Simple do's and don'ts to ensure sensitive coverage of suicide.
The supporting evidence that media coverage impacts suicide rates and methods.
Regulations and Codes of Practice that the media must follow relating to suicide.
About Samaritans Media Guidelines
On average, over 6,000 people take their own lives by suicide each year across the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (ROI).
Research shows that inappropriate reporting of suicide may lead to imitative or ‘copycat’ behaviour, so Samaritans publishes Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and has been working with the media for more than two decades, providing expert advice on the portrayal of suicide.
Joe Ferns, Samaritans’ Executive Director of Policy, Research and Development said:
“We were pleased that Panorama approached Samaritans, keen to work with us on their documentary ‘A Suicide in the Family’.
“In this programme Panorama has highlighted the crucial issue of men being at greater risk of suicide. Samaritans produced a report in 2012 which explores the issues affecting men and what it is that makes men more vulnerable to suicide. The key points from this report are that men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, particularly men in mid-life in lower socio groups. Factors such as personality traits, concepts of masculinity, relationship breakdown and emotional literacy, all play a role in heightening men’s risk.
“While clearly a very sensitive subject, when handled responsibly the media can play a hugely important role in helping people understand some of the complex issues surrounding suicide. These include: the signs which may indicate a person is at risk, the kinds of problems that can lead to a person feeling suicidal, and encourage those who are struggling to reach out for help by highlighting sources of support, such as Samaritans.
“Significant worldwide research demonstrates links between media portrayal of suicide and copycat behaviour among vulnerable people. Samaritans has been working closely with the media for over two decades, providing expert advice on how to safely approach this complex subject.
“We were very pleased that Keo Films took on board all of the guidance we gave them on how to handle this difficult subject and feel that the final result sets an excellent standard of good practice for programme makers. Samaritans remains committed to supporting journalists in handling the subjects of suicide and self-harm and we encourage anyone in the industry to get in touch when covering these topics.
Simon Jack, BBC Correspondent, said:
“Samaritans has been doing amazing work for the past 60 years and it was no surprise that they were incredibly helpful to work with while putting this documentary together. They helped me on both a personal and professional level.
“While this has been a very challenging topic to cover, there is clearly a need to tackle the significant issue of male suicide, particularly among middle-aged men.
“Working closely with Samaritans helped us treat this difficult topic sensitively. I hope that people who see the programme find it helpful and healing, as I did personally.”
The media can also help encourage people who are struggling to reach out for support and raise awareness of sources of help, such as Samaritans. It is important that programme makers consult with us to help make sure this is done in a safe and responsible way.
We have also produced a series of supplementary factsheets:
- Working with bereaved families in the aftermath of a suicide (pdf)
- Reporting rail suicides and attempts (pdf)
- Best practice for broadcast reporting of suicide (pdf)
- Drama portrayals of suicide (pdf)
- Reporting murder-suicides (pdf)
- Best practice for reporting on suicide using digital media (pdf)
- 10 things to remember when reporting suicide - a summary of the key points (pdf)
"Irresponsible reporting on suicide can have very damaging consequences. These guidelines provide clear, positive advice to help journalists cover a tragedy, and avoid doing more harm."
Dr Ben Goldacre, Writer, Bad Science
Source of support
Samaritans offer confidential support around the clock to anyone that wants to talk through their problems. Only 1 conversation in 5 is with someone feeling suicidal. Common reasons to call us include:
- relationship and family problems
- loss, including loss of a friend or a family member through bereavement
- financial worries
- job-related stress
- college or study-related stress
We also have a number of other sources of support offering specific advice: