The Media Monitoring Project published in 2010 found that between 2000 and 2007, the Australian media had almost doubled it’s coverage of suicide, with responsible reports increasing from 57 to 75 per cent.
SANE StigamaWatch encourages the media to build on these positive findings by referring to the SANE Media Resources, Mindframe's Reporting Suicide and Mental Illness, the Australian Press Council’s Reporting Guidelines and the World Health Organisation’s Resource for Media Professionals, which provide journalists with advice on how to report on suicide-related issues.
By limiting certain details, the media can reduce the impact of graphic or distressing stories on members of the audience.
Mindframe media guidelines
The Mindframe Reporting Suicide and Mental Illness guidelines encourage the Australian media to responsibly report on suicide by:
- Excluding graphic details from stories, including suicide location or method
- Ensuring the word ‘suicide’ is not included in headlines
- Including crisis helpline details for people who are distressed by a story
Australian and International research, such as the Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide by Thomas Niederkrotenthaler and Effects of newspaper stories on the incidence of suicide in Australia by Riaz Hassan, suggest a relationship between reports on suicide and an increase in suicide rates. The Mindframe media guidelines are designed to assist the media in reporting on this delicate issue, while limiting the likelihood of copycat suicides, ensuring vulnerable people are not drawn to potentially upsetting stories and providing assistance to those who are distressed.
StigmaWatch encourages the media to think twice before reporting on suicide, to check existing guidelines and to consider the impact certain facts and language may have on the audience.
The following three examples are the most common reports received by StigmaWatch regarding irresponsible reporting on suicide-related issues. These include:
- Detailing the method of suicide
- Failing to include helplines for people who may be seeking support or information
- Including ‘suicide’ in the headline