Quick guide for reporting about self-harm


Media IconWhile the research concerning media reporting and self-harm is limited, several major principles from the literature on the impact of reporting on suicide can reasonably be applied to self-harm.
The following principles provide some guidance for media based on the best available evidence to encourage that portrayals of self-harm are appropriate, responsible and safe.

 

When reporting about self-harm:

Avoid perpetuating myths about self-harm
Perpetuating myths about self-harm in the media can lead to people being viewed in a negative manner by family, friends and even professionals. This can prevent a person from accessing the support or information that they need. The emotional pain that people who engage in self-harm experience is real and overwhelming; hence, people who engage in self-harm DO NOT do it to:

  • Manipulate others/ situations;
  • Attract attention;
  • Feign suicide; and
  • Because they belong to a subculture (e.g. Emo or Goth).

Why should I run the story?
Consider the prominence and context of the story, and how many stories you have recently run featuring self-harm. In some studies, participants have commented that even the mention or reference to self-harm in various forms of media is enough to prompt them to engage in self-harming behaviour when feeling vulnerable.

Positioning the story
To avoid sensationalising self-harm, avoid placing the words “self-harm” in the headline or lead. Position the story on the inside pages or further down in the order of reports in TV and radio news.

Language
The language used in a media report may glamorise or sensationalise self-harming behaviour. For example referring to self-harm as a 'fad' or talking about the occurrence of self-harm as a 'self-harm epidemic' or ‘self-mutilation epidemic’ can be unhelpful and is inaccurate. Using labels to describe people who engage in self-harm, for example, ‘cutters’ or ‘self-harmers’ can lead to increased stigma around these behaviours.

Don’t be explicit about the method of self-harm
Don’t be explicit about the method of self-harm. If it is important to the story, discuss the method in general terms only, such as ‘self-harm’ or ‘self-injury’ rather than providing details. Explicit descriptions can prompt some vulnerable people to copy the act. Be mindful that methods of self-harm are often the same as methods of suicide. 

Include help-seeking information
Include phone numbers and contact details for support services. This provides immediate support for those who may have been distressed, or family and friends who may be concerned about someone. For more information, see contacts list below.


Contacts and help-seeking information about self-harm

NATIONAL CRISIS COUNSELLING AND HELPLINES

Lifeline (24 hours) 13 11 14

Kids Helpline - 24 hours, for young people aged 5 to 25 years 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia (24 hours) 1300 78 99 78

Reach Out – Interactive website to help young people www.reachout.com

SANE Helpline – mental illness information, support and referral
1800 18 SANE (7263)

 


Expert comment, storyline advice and research

Media IconFOR EXPERT COMMENT

 

Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention
www.griffith.edu.au/health/australian-institute-suicide-research-prevention/research
Tel: 07 3735 3382

Crisis Support Services
www.crisissupport.org.au
Tel: 03 8371 2800

Lifeline
www.lifeline.org.au
Tel: 02 6215 9446

Mental Health Council of Australia
www.mhca.org.au
Tel: 02 6285 3100

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia
www.mhima.org.au
Tel: 1300 136 289

ORYGEN Youth Health and Research Centre
www.oyh.org.au
Tel: 03 9342 2800

SANE Australia
www.sane.org
Mob: 0414 427 291

 

 

 

 

 

Media IconFOR ADVICE ON STORYLINES

 

Mindframe Project Team
www.mindframe/for-media
Tel: 02 4924 6767

SANE Australia
www.sane.org
Mob: 0414 427 291


Media IconSTATISTICS AND RESEARCH AND INFORMATION


Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention
www.griffith.edu.au/health/australian-institute-suicide-research-prevention/research
Tel: 07 3735 3382

Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behaviour (USA)
www.crpsib.com

headspace: Youth Mental Health Foundation
www.headspace.org.au
Tel: 03 9027 0100

Living is For Everyone (LIFE) Framework
www.livingisforeveryone.com.au
Tel: 03 8398 8408

Research Centre for Injury Studies
www.nisu.flinders.edu.au
Tel: 08 8201 7602

 



Health Department media units

QLD Health
Tel: 07 3234 1439

NSW Health
Tel: 02 9391 9121

ACT Health
Tel: 02 6205 0837

VIC Human Services
Tel: 03 9096 8803

TAS Health and Human Services
Tel: 03 6233 4890

SA Department of Health
Tel: 08 8226 6488

WA Department of Health
Tel: 08 9222 4333

NT Health and Families
Tel: 08 8999 2886

 

 

More information on self-harm, including updated facts, statistics, references and a downloadable copy of this fact sheet, please see the left hand navigation of this section.