Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pressure on the media over suicides

The reporting of the suicides in South Wales my the media is creating a lot of controversy.

The Guardian this morning reports

Specialists from Oxford University's department of psychiatry said there was "compelling evidence of increases in suicidal behaviour after the appearance of news reports, fictional drama presentations on television and suicide manuals". "There is clear evidence that reports in the media that give descriptions of the method of suicide and romanticise the deceased by giving descriptions of the attention they receive in the form of condolences and online obituaries give rise to other suicides," said Sue Simkin, coordinator of the centre for suicide research at Oxford.
"Studies have also found increases in suicides after a picture is used of the victim or the location and where the story is sensationalised, is prominent in the paper and is repeated."

This comes on the back of guidelines publsihed yesterday on reporting mental health and suicide.

The report says

Suicide is often newsworthy and is a legitimate subject for reporting. The fact an individual has deliberately chosen to end their life quite naturally attracts interest. The figures are shocking. Although suicide rates are generally falling, there are still more than 6,000 deaths a year in the UK - nearly twice as many people die from suicide as they do in road traffic accidents (Samaritans Information Resource Pack, 2007, and ONS Transport, Road Casualties (5.6/100,000 in 2004)).
But stories about individual suicides should be presented with care. How you choose to report on it can potentially save lives. The terrible truth is that people who are already feeling suicidal sometimes take their own lives after seeing media coverage of other suicides.

And recommends the following to be following guidelines

1.Seek help from one of the organisations listed in this handbook for expert advice, information or to find professionals or individuals who have direct knowledge of suicide.

2.Take care to avoid giving excessive details about the method of suicide used because it may result in copycat suicides.

3.Always include details of an appropriate helpline, such as Samaritans - 08457 90 90 90.

4.Suicide was decriminalised in 1961, so it is inaccurate to use the term ‘commit
suicide’. Use alternatives such as ‘took his own life’, ‘die by suicide’ or ‘complete suicide’.

5.Suicide is complex. People decide to take their own lives for many different reasons. It is misleading to suggest a simplistic cause and effect explanation.
Avoid sensational headlines or language that glorify or romanticise the act of suicide.

6.Don’t use dramatic photographs, footage or images related to a suicide

Has the media gone over board when reporting the deaths in Bridgend?
Headlines such as suicide pacts,rings certainly seem contrary to the recommendations.Whether this coverage is contributing to the continuing suicides will never be revealed.However the nationwide coveage does appear to be increasing the figures across the country.

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