Guidelines for Reporting Suicides (Press Release 7 September 2013)
Since the Council’s establishment, we have received many complaints about suicide reports. Families of suicides and members of the public have pointed out that photos of the dead are disturbing and invasive of family privacy. They have also complained that instances of overly detailed reporting could lead to imitation.
Following a year of wide consultation, the Council in 2013 established the Guidelines for Reporting Suicides in order to foster a sense of responsibility among journalists when dealing with this sensitive matter.
Guidelines for Reporting Suicides
The approach that the media takes in reporting suicides is a public concern. We believe that the media should strive to strike a balance between public interest, factual reporting and the prevention of possible imitation of suicides.
Using sanguinary photos and sensational content to report a suicide incident is against journalism’s professional and ethical code of conduct, and creates further harm and disturbance for the public and the victim’s family.
- A suicide incident should not be placed on the front page of a newspaper or a media website unless it is in the public interest or is of grave public concern.
- Avoid using a large headline when reporting a suicide incident.
- Media websites should avoid cross-references with other suicide incidents reported on the website. Cross-references should instead be made to websites providing mental health services.
- Avoid reporting past suicide incidents repeatedly.
- Extra care should be taken when handling suicide incidents that involve notable persons, as their behavior is likely to be replicated because many view them as heroes or role models.
2. News Content
- Avoid a detailed description of the suicide method or process.
- Avoid using an emotional or glorifying tone to describe the suicidal behavior.
- Avoid describing suicide as a solution.
- Avoid presuming the reason for the suicidal behavior or simplifying the reason behind the suicide.
3. Use of Photographs
- Avoid printing sanguinary, violent, revolting and/or pornographic photos.
- Handle photos of the suicide victim or the suicide scene with care, and pixelate or blur the picture when appropriate.
- Do not use made-up conversation or plots to describe the suicide process, consequences of or reason for the suicide.
- Avoid using computer graphics or animation to describe the process, consequences of or reason for the suicide.
- Avoid enlarging photos of suicides or suicide attempts, such as photos depicting a person jumping off a building.
Appreciation of Privacy
- Respect the victim’s family privacy to avoid adding to their pain and sorrow.
- Consideration should be given to the victim’s friends and family. Avoid the over reporting of a suicide incident, as it might affect their emotional recovery.
Education and Prevention
- Consider including the signs of suicidal behavior in news reports to alert people who could offer help to people at risk of suicide.
- Provide solutions and ways to seek help whenever possible in news reports, such as through comments and opinions from psychologists, social workers and teachers.
- Provide information on and contact details for mental health and counseling services in news report to assist and support at risk people and their families.