These 10 top tips and Samaritans’ resources for journalists reinforce industry codes of practice to support the highest standards of safe coverage of suicide.
Samaritans has done an excellent job in raising awareness of the need for care when covering suicide – and of explaining the research which lies behind its advice for reporters. The simple fact is that good journalism in this arena saves lives.
Will Gore, Head of Partnerships and Projects, NCTJ
Avoid reporting methods of suicide, such as describing someone as having died by hanging, particularly in headlines.
Include references to suicide being preventable and signpost sources of support, such as Samaritans’ helpline. This can encourage people to seek help, which could save lives. When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visitwww.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
Steer clear of language that sensationalises or glorifies suicide. Avoid dramatic headlines and strong terms such as ‘suicide epidemic’. Never suggest that someone died instantly or that their death was quick, easy, painless, inevitable or a solution to their problems.
Don’t refer to a specific site or location as popular or known for suicides, for example, ‘notorious site’ or ‘hot spot’ and refrain from providing information, such as the height of a bridge or cliff.
Avoid dramatic, emotive or sensational pictures or video footage. Excessive imagery can glamourise a death or lead vulnerable individuals to over-identify with the deceased.
Avoid excessive amounts of coverage and overly prominent placement of stories, such as a frontpage splash, and do not link to previous stories about suicide.
Treat social media with particular caution and avoid mentioning or linking to comments, or websites/forums that promote or glamourise suicide. Similarly, it is safer not to open comments sections on suicide stories and careful consideration should be given around the appropriateness of promoting stories through push notifications.
Including content from suicide notes or similar messages left by a person who has died should be avoided. This could increase the likelihood of people identifying with the deceased. It may also romanticise a suicide or cause distress to the bereaved family and friends.
Speculation about the ‘trigger’ or cause of a suicide can oversimplify the issue and should be avoided. Suicide is extremely complex and most of the time there is no single event or factor that leads someone to take their own life.
Young people are more susceptible to suicide contagion. When covering the death of a young person, do not give undue prominence to the story or repeat the use of photographs, including galleries. Don’t use emotive, romanticised language or images – a sensitive, factual approach is much safer. Coverage that reflects the wider issues around suicide, including that it is preventable, can help reduce the risk of suicidal behaviour. Include clear and direct references to resources and support organisations Read our guidance for covering suicides by young people here.
Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service also provides free advice and training to support informed and safe coverage. Journalists and programme makers can get in touch directly with enquiries about suicide content, including breaking news, at: [email protected]
Providing information on how to contact organisations where people can find support, including helpline numbers, can encourage people who are struggling and may be experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek help. This could save lives. The below video can be embedded in articles and other content, or alternatively use our helpline details listed below.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.