Covering suicide is never easy. Research has shown that improper reporting on suicide can contribute to additional suicides and suicide attempts. To help journalists safely cover this topic, more than 20 media and suicide prevention organizations developed “Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.” Download the PDF or read more on reportingonsuicide.org The top recommendations are below.
Important Points When Covering Suicide
- Always include a referral phone number and information about local crisis intervention services. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline toll-free number (988) is available 24/7, can be used anywhere in the United States, and connects the caller to a certified crisis center near where the call is placed. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website: https://988lifeline.org/
- Avoid big headlines such as Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide. Instead, inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence, e.g. Kurt Cobain Dead at 27.
- Don’t include photos of grieving family, friends, memorials, or funerals. Do not describe in detail the method used.
- Report on suicide as a public health issue, not a crime.
- Do not quote the suicide note in the article.
- Instead of describing the rate of recent suicides as an “epidemic,” or “skyrocketing,” carefully investigate the most recent Center for Disease Control data and use non-sensational words like “rise” or “higher.”
- Most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. Refrain from describing a suicide as “inexplicable” or “without warning.”
- Avoid quoting police or other first responders about the causes of suicide. Instead, seek advice from suicide prevention experts such as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
- Do not refer to suicide as “successful,” “unsuccessful,” or a “failed attempt.” Use phrases and words, “died by suicide,” “completed suicide,” or “killed him/herself.”
- In online coverage, include hyperlinks to resources, such as suicide warnings and risk factors, or to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to help inform readers and reduce risk of contagion.
- Websites and bloggers should develop policies and procedures for safe message board comments and monitor for hurtful messages or comments from posters who may be in crisis. It might be helpful for webmasters, bloggers or message board moderators to post the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline information in the first comment box in any story about suicide.