Reporting celebrity deaths

Research consistently demonstrates strong links between certain types of media coverage and increases in suicide rates. This risk significantly increases if details of suicide methods are reported, if the story is placed prominently and if the coverage is extensive or sensationalised – particularly in the case of celebrity deaths.

Following the recent death of Chester Bennington Samaritans is asking the media to follow its Media Guidelines for the reporting of suicide and the specific guidance below:

For further advice on reporting on the topic of suicide, please contact Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service on: 0208 394 8377, out-of-hours on 07850 312224 or email l.fraser@samaritans.org 

  • Be mindful that celebrity suicides have a higher risk of encouraging imitational suicidal behaviour, particularly if the media coverage is extensive and sensationalist.
  • Avoid explicit details of the suicide method e.g. do not describe how the person died or what material was used (ideally, do not report the method of suicide at all).
  • Avoid placement of stories on the front page with large headlines, or making this the lead bulletin, as this can sensationalise the story.
  • Avoid speculation of causes or simplistic explanations - bear in mind that suicide is complex and seldom the result of a single factor, it is likely to have several inter-related causes.
  • Please avoid making unsubstantiated links between separate incidents, for example by including photographs of those who have died.
  • Where possible sensitively focus on the life achievements of the person and try to portray the tragic wastefulness of their death. Try to refer to the wider issues associated with suicide, such as risk factors like alcohol and drug misuse or mental health problems.
  • Please encourage help-seeking behaviour by including sources of support, such as Samaritans: Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans free any time on 116 123 (this number will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.