News stories, etc., on suicide-related deaths can be helpful in promoting service areas where at-risk people can find help. They can also be harmful in that they may stimulate some people to attempt suicide. There is confusion about how the subject of suicide should be treated to minimize this danger.
As a service to the news media and to the people making public presentations on the subject of suicide, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) offer the following guidelines. These are intended to be general statements to aid in a responsible presentation of information about suicide.
To discourage imitative or copycat suicides, it is important to avoid or minimize:
- Specific details of the method
- Descriptions of a suicide as unexplainable (e.g., “He had everything going for him.”)
- Romanticized versions of the reasons for the suicide (e.g., “We want to be together for all eternity.”)
- Simplistic reasons for the suicide (e.g., “Boy takes his own life because he has to wear braces.”)
In addition, the print media can reduce the imitative effect by:
- Printing the story on an inside page
- If the story must appear on the first page, print it below the fold
- Avoid the word “suicide” in the headline
- Avoid printing a photo of the person who completed the suicide"
It is important to report a suicide in a straightforward manner so that the suicide does not appear "exciting". Reports should not make the suicidal person appear admirable, nor should they seem to approve of the suicide.
To encourage prevention of suicide, it is helpful to:
- Present alternatives to suicide (calling a suicide prevention centre, getting counselling, etc.)
- Whenever possible, present examples of positive outcomes of people in suicidal crises
- Provide information on community resources for those who may be suicidal or who know people who are
- Include a list of clues to suicidal behaviour, such as the warning signs of suicide, and what to do
Warning Signs of Suicide
- Suicide threats
- Statements revealing a desire to die
- Previous suicide attempts
- Sudden changes in behaviour (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness)
- Depression (e.g., crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness)
- Final arrangements, such as giving away personal possessions
What to Do
- Discuss it openly and frankly
- Show interest and support
- Get professional help
- Call Distress Centres at 416-408-HELP (4357)
For all media queries, please contact Alison Caird at 416-598-0168 or Info@torontodistresscentre.com