Stigma Files 2017

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Issue: A healthcare journal published an article containing explicit details of a suicide method, and the problematic terms ‘committed’ and ‘successful’ suicide.

Result: The online version of the article was edited to remove the explicit details of suicide method in line with recommendations provided by StigmaWatch. The problematic terminology that inadvertently presented suicide as a ‘crime’ or a desired outcome was also removed. The Communications and Publications Officer thanked StigmaWatch for bringing the problem to their attention and said they would ensure all future articles on mental illness and suicide were written according to the guidelines.

Why it mattered: Research from more than 100 international studies suggests that reporting about suicide deaths has been associated with increased rates of suicide and suicide attempts following reporting. Risk generally increased where the method and location was disclosed, and the death was glamourised or glorified. Australia’s media reporting guidelines recommend avoiding language that presents suicide as a desired outcome such as ‘successful’ suicide. Instead, ‘took their own life’ is preferred. Additionally, media reporting guidelines recommend the term ‘committed’ is also problematic as can associate suicide with a crime.