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Scrubbing the ‘glamour’ from suicide deaths

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Issue: A popular weekly celebrity magazine profiled a female celebrity whose mother died by suicide. Unfortunately, details about her suicide death were relayed in explicit detail and her suicide method was disclosed. The story was published both in print and online and contact details for help-seeking services were not provided.

Result: StigmaWatch provided the magazine with feedback about how exactly the story breached national media reporting guidelines surrounding suicide. We explained why providing explicit details of suicide method is dangerous and can inadvertently increase risk factors of suicide for vulnerable readers. The copy director responded swiftly and sympathetically to let us know the story had been deleted from the website. She apologised for the poor choices made by the journalist in question and informed us she had circulated an editorial-wide communication about adhering to reporting guidelines.

Why it mattered: Publications with a large readership and intentional focus on human interest features can play a key role in shaping how mental illness and suicide are perceived by the wider community. It is crucial that media guidelines are followed to minimise risk to vulnerable individuals. Celebrity suicide attempts and deaths are a particularly fraught area as they have the potential to glamorise and normalise the idea of suicide to readers.

Last updated: 15 June 2018