Samaritans’ comment on Columbia University’s Study re. Robin Williams’ death

“This study builds on a strong body of research evidence that shows that irresponsible or overly detailed depictions of suicide can have a devastating impact.

Certain types of reporting of suicide can lead to imitative behaviour in others who may be vulnerable, making an attempt to end their life seem more possible. In the case of celebrities, the potential for someone at risk to make an emotional connection and over-identify with them is greater, in some cases even interpreting their death as affirmation that they could take their own life.

In the UK, the media has come a long way in recent years in terms of reporting suicide responsibly, which is encouraging to see. Samaritans has been working with the media for more than two decades, advising on the sensitive and appropriate depiction of suicide. For the most part, the media is helpful in portraying the complexities surrounding suicide, working hard to break down the stigma around mental health issues and suicidal thoughts, and encouraging anyone feeling overwhelmed to seek help.

However, this study helps to highlight the importance of all media adhering to guidelines whenever the topic of suicide is covered. We publish Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and provide a full media advisory service. We would encourage all media to refer to our guidelines and contact us if in doubt.”

Lorna Fraser, Executive Lead Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service