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The dangers of speculation in the reporting of suicide

As a follow up to her first guest blog, Jennifer from Mindframe takes a look at why the media must be careful when speculating about possible suicide incidents.

While we know that excluding graphic detail helps minimise risk to vulnerable people the circumstances around their death doesn’t tell us anything about why a person is vulnerable in the first place. This is why speculation is not advised in the guidelines.

Speculation is the act of assuming, or forming a theory without firm evidence. We know suicide is extremely complex and it is incredibly difficult to clearly associate one single factor being the cause of a suicide death.

The cause of suicidal thoughts or feelings of hopelessness, is more often than not, caused by many different factors. Many areas of someone’s life is likely to be acting as a source of stress, so to say that the last impacting factor of someone’s life was the sole causing factor, is inaccurate.

The way suicidal thoughts impact the mind is different for each person. Speculation around the cause of a death, backed up by memorialising, romanticising or glorifying the issues can appear to someone who is experiencing similar life stresses, that suicide is an option.

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Reporting on suicide incidents responsibly with Mindframe

We spoke with Jennifer from Mindframe, about how the media should be reporting on suicide to ensure it is safe, responsible and accurate.


What are the rules on reporting suicide?


We know through centuries of observation and hundreds of research articles, that discussing suicide can be harmful if too much information is given. This applies not just in news media, but in entertainment media as well.


As any good storyteller will tell you, be it on page, stage or the big screen – there is great skill in being able to paint a picture that invites a reader to imagine the finer details for themselves. Whether a story is to entertain or inform a reader, evidence demonstrates that discussing the loss of life by suicide can be harmful to people who are vulnerable.


Currently there are no set ‘rules’ around this but we do have well-supported guidance, which helps us understand how we can minimise harm and copy-cat behaviour. People who are experiencing thoughts of suicide are at a higher risk of being negatively impacted when there is graphic detail of how someone has taken their own life. Using stigma-free language and information that is void of explicit detail can still tell a story and is a safer way to present the topic of suicide.

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Fears that stop the question ‘are you okay?’

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When it comes to asking the important question 'are you okay?' fear can get in the way.

Fear of the response. Fear of our inexperience on the topic of mental health. Fear of appearing to be a stickybeak.

But these concerns don't recognise the relief many people feel after they hear the question.

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Self-help if you're feeling suicidal

Self-help if you're feeling suicidal

Feeling suicidal means feeling more pain than you can cope with at the time. But remember, no problem lasts forever.

With help, you can feel better and keep yourself safe. People get through this. People who feel as badly as you feel now. So get help now. You can survive.

There are things you can do to relieve the pain and reduce the desire to end your life.

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Busting the myths about grief

Busting the myths about grief

While most people recognise that loss is a normal part of life, the grief that follows is often misunderstood.

To help clear up this confusion, we’ve compiled a list of the common misconceptions held about grief.

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Four tips to help mental health services when responding to suicide bereavement

Four tips to help mental health services when responding to suicide bereavement

It is a sobering fact that suicide is one of the most common causes of premature death among people with mental illness.

Loss caused by the suicide of a loved one with mental illness has a profound effect on families and friends. The bereaved often have to deal with a range of complex emotions including confusion, despair and anger both at themselves and at mental health services.

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Five important lessons from people who have attempted suicide

Five important lessons from people who have attempted suicide

Last year I had the privilege of interviewing 31 people who had attempted suicide.

We talked about a range of issues, including the triggers that led them to feeling suicidal, support received (both helpful and unhelpful), the challenge of talking with others about their experience, and the progress they had made developing coping skills.

These interviews were the basis of Lessons for Life, a research report that highlights what helps and hinders people who attempt suicide. Throughout the process participants shared their invaluable insights into areas of critical importance, these included . . .

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Death may be the end of a life – but not a relationship

Death may be the end of a life – but not a relationship

The grief people experience due to mental illness and death by suicide raises very complex topics. Many participants in the SANE Mental Illness and Bereavement workshop are particularly interested in new ways of thinking – or ‘models’ – of grief, and challenging the old assumption that people should simply ‘move on’.

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