Reporting Suicide and Self Harm

If you are tasked with reporting about suicide or self harm it is really important to do this responsibly as studies have shown that some reporting can lead to copycat behaviour. 

  • Focus on feelings, not behaviours. Try to report underlying issues or motivations behind the self-harm, as oppose to detailing the behaviour itself. Graphic descriptions can be used as tips by people who may be predisposed to self harming.
  • Don’t be explicit about methods. E.g. it may be okay to mention taking an overdose, but avoid detailing what substance was taken, how many tablets etc. This could be used as a tip by someone experiencing suicidal ideations.
  • Avoid coverage of self-harming behaviours by celebrities. It could glamorise or prompt imitation behaviour.
  • Remember the correct term is to ‘complete’ suicide, not ‘commit’. ‘Commit’ is used when describing criminality, and implies judgement or persecution.
  • Avoid phrases like ‘unsuccessful suicide attempt’. This attributes feelings of achievement or failure to taking one’s own life.
  • No images relating to self-injury should be used. This can be triggering and distressing for readers.
  • Avoid presenting the behaviour as an appropriate solution to the problems, as readers may interpret the behaviour as a positive coping strategy.
  • Avoid disclosing the contents of any suicide notes, past or present. Sometimes this may be used as guidance for a vulnerable person to justify their own suicide. We would also advise against reproducing final posts on social media for the same reason.

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