Impact of media reporting of suicide


Media report suicide deaths when they consider these to be in the public interest. If the person is well known or the circumstances of the death are in some way unusual or relevant to the community, there is every possibility a death will be reported.
 
Research has demonstrated that the way suicide is reported is significant. While some styles of reporting have been linked to increased rates of actual suicide, appropriate reporting may help reduce rates of suicide1.
 
People in despair may be influenced by media coverage of suicide, particularly where they identify with the person in the report. Characteristics of reporting associated with increased rates of suicide include: reporting of celebrity suicide; high profile reporting of suicide; detailed description of method and/or location; and prolonged or repetitive reporting2.
 
Characteristics of reporting associated with decreased rates of suicide include: portrayals that position suicide as a tragic waste and an avoidable loss; those that focus on the impact on others; and reports where method and location are not disclosed3.
 
While police services in all states and territories have policies regulating interactions with the media, Australian research has indicated that police services are a major source of information for many media stories about suicide4. Police are usually first to examine a scene and, therefore, may be the first to field media enquiries.
 
When interacting with the media, it is important to have an understanding of the potential impact of reporting suicide and consider your role in the exchange of information. 
 

References 

[1] Pirkis, J., & Blood, W. (2010). Suicide and the news and information media: A critical review. ACT, Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. [Click here to download].
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] Pirkis, J., Blood, R. W., Dare, A., & Holland, K. (2008). The Media Monitoring Project: Changes in media reporting of suicide in Australian news media between 2000/01 and 2006/07. ACT, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.[Click here to download]

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