Suicide reporting - codes of practice

The main reporting regulations and codes of practice within the United Kingdom are:

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code

Section 2: Harm and Offence

Violence, dangerous behaviour and suicide:
2.4 - Programmes must not include material (whether in individual programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account the context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such behaviour.

2.5 - Suicide and self-harm. This rule reflects a continued concern about the impact of real or portrayed suicide, and self-harm, on those whose minds may be disturbed. Whilst it is always difficult to prove causality, various studies have shown that there may be a short-lived increase in particular methods of suicide portrayed on television. Broadcasters should consider whether detailed demonstrations of means or methods of suicide or self-harm are justified.

In addition:
Rule 1.13 in Section One: Protecting the Under-Eighteens:

Dangerous behaviour, or the portrayal of dangerous behaviour, that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful:
- must not be featured in programmes made primarily for children unless
there is strong editorial justification;
- must not be broadcast before the watershed (in the case of television) or when children are particularly likely to be listening (in the case of radio), unless there is editorial justification.

For the full code go to OFCOM.

Independent Press Standards Organisation's Code

Following some distressing media coverage that it was believed could encourage copycat suicides Samaritans and others made a submission to the PCC in January 2006 requesting a new sub-clause be introduced to the Editor’s Code to specifically address factual reporting and representation of suicide.
This led to a new sub-clause being added to Clause 5: Intrusion into Grief and Shock. The provisions now read:

Clause 5:

5i: In cases involving grief or shock, enquiries must be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion. Publication must be handled sensitively at such times, but this should not be interpreted as restricting the right to reporting judicial proceedings.
5ii: When reporting suicide, to prevent simulative acts care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used, while taking into account the media’s right to report legal proceedings.

For the full code go to IPSO.


Related links


Samaritans’ Press Office is available 24 hours a day for consultation on any media enquiry or sources of support:

  • +44 (0)20 8394 8300 (during working hours)
  • +44 (0)7943 809162 (out of hours contact)