Media regulator will expand guidance for reporting on suicide - iMediaEthics

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The UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) announced last month it is expanding its resources and guidance for journalists reporting on suicide.

“Ultimately, we can only reduce the numbers of suicides each year if we continue to talk about the issue,” IPSO said in an April 24 blogpost. “Through information, training and guidance, IPSO can help journalists to cover this important topic without putting vulnerable people at risk.”

Noting that IPSO issued specific rules for reporting on suicide in 2015, IPSO explained its new effort will include “developing guidance” and publishing blogposts by the UK charity the Samaritans, which focuses on suicide prevention.

“We will publish regular blogs authored by Samaritans which will cover in more detail the research around the reporting of suicide and key points for editors and journalists to consider. Over the coming months, they will write about areas including reporting on suicides in public places, inquests, self-harm, young suicides and suicide clusters,” IPSO said.

An IPSO spokesperson told iMediaEthics that it plans to publish about 5 or 6 posts from the Samaritans this year, and that IPSO plans to publish its own guidance on suicide reporting in the “next few months.”

The Samaritans’ Lorna Fraser told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “There is a significant body of research evidence which consistently shows that inappropriate reporting, or depiction, of suicide can influence suicidal behaviour and may result in an overall increase in suicides, including the use of particular suicide methods.”

For example, Fraser wrote, “The risk of media reporting influencing imitational suicidal behaviour significantly increases if details of how a person died are reported, if the story is placed prominently and if the coverage is sensationalised and/or extensive.” Fraser noted that the Samaritans have previously worked with IPSO, broadcast regulator OfCom, the British Board of Film Classification, the Advertising Standards Authority, the now-defunct Press Complaints Commission.

The Samaritans plans to address in its blogposts on IPSO’s website, according to Fraser:

  • “Reporting on celebrity suicides/attempts
  • “Reporting on youth suicides & suicide clusters
  • “Reporting on inquests
  • “Reporting on self-harm
  • “Reporting on suicides in public places (cliffs, bridge, rail etc)
  • “‘Papageno effect’ – coverage of suicide which can be helpful – i.e. reporting hopeful stories of recovery, which can encourage others to speak out and seek help.”

Fraser explained, “While there are a number of risks associated with covering the topic of suicide, there is an additional body of research which shows that appropriate coverage can help to raise awareness of the issues surrounding this behaviour and it is possible to encourage people, who may be suffering in silence, to reach out for help, which can ultimately help to reduce suicides.”

Hat Tip: Press Gazette

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Media regulator will expand guidance for reporting on suicide

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