The words we use in reporting on suicide are imperative.
Specific images or vocabulary can influence a person’s willingness to take their life. It is possible for someone already considering suicide to change their thoughts by exposing them to detailed explanations and depictions of the death or methods used.
According to the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide: “More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals.”
Below are some recommendations to follow when reporting or writing about suicide.
How To Talk or Write About Suicide
Reporting on suicide is different from crime reporting. The main message of any article, video or TV show about suicide should encourage people to get help. It is important to advise them where to look for support by including local and national hotline numbers or crisis resources. It is helpful to include a warning signs of suicide sidebar, or an introduction that contains a trigger warning.
Inform, Don't Sensationalize
- Don’t include the word suicide in the headline.
- Don’t use images of the location or method of death, grieving loved ones, memorials or funerals. Instead, use school, work or family photos.
- Exclude if there was a note from the deceased. Don't detail what the note contained or refer to it as a “suicide note.”
- Treat social media with caution and refrain from linking or mentioning websites that promote or glamourize suicide. Careful consideration should be given around leaving comment sections open and promoting stories through push notifications.
Choose Your Words Carefully
- Don't use the term “committed suicide.” Instead, use “died by suicide."
- Use words like "increase" or "rise" when describing research or studies on suicide.
- Don't refer to suicide as “successful,” “unsuccessful,” or a “failed attempt.”
- Don't describe a suicide as “inexplicable” or “without warning.”
Suicide is not a topic to be avoided but it should be handled carefully and thoughtfully. It’s not a matter of being politically correct - it's a matter of saving lives and offering hope.