Speculating on matters of mental illness & suicide is never helpful.

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Speculating on matters of mental illness & suicide is never helpful.

Issue: The sudden death of a popular Australian model and actress led to the media reporting that she had taken her own life despite no official statement from official sources (family or police) confirming this.

Result: StigmaWatch contacted a number of media outlets about speculative language surrounding the cause of death. Two major news organisations implemented our recommendations and removed speculation from the online articles.

Why it mattered? It is important not to speculate on a person’s cause of death without confirmation from authorities, and the consent of the persons family. If there are suspicious circumstances surrounding a death, speculation by the media may impede ongoing police investigations.

In this case, the deceased was a well-known personality, adding another layer of complexity to the story. Journalist’s must be careful not to glamourise a suicide (especially when the cause of death is unconfirmed). The media should also ensure that they only report accurate information that is strictly in the public interest in order to reduce the impact the death may have on vulnerable individuals.

UPDATE: More than a month after this story broke, an official cause of death is yet to be confirmed. Some media outlets have backtracked on original reports that the death was indeed a suicide, and are now speculating that the death was accidental.

Last updated: 4 April 2019

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