Time to Change encourages people with lived experience of mental health problems to write openly and honestly about their story. We want everyone to feel that they can discuss their experience of stigma and discrimination on all sorts of issues, including self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders.
We have just a few guidelines to help keep the content safe and non-triggering for readers.
Suicide and self-harm
- 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. Avoid detailing how someone harmed themselves as evidence suggests 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.
- Avoid numbers including calories, weight, BMI, and body measurements. Eating disorders can be competitive illnesses. Those who are experiencing eating disorders may compare their own numbers and strive to match or ‘beat’ others, seeing their numbers as a failure if they are not as low as someone else’s.
- Don’t discuss food groups. Mentioning specific ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods can be used as tips.
- Avoid mentioning amounts eaten, as this can be seen as guidance on how to restrict food intake, and the ‘right’ amount of food to consume.
- No images of emaciated body parts. Pictures of gaunt and skinny body parts can be used as inspiration or a target for others.
- Focus on feelings, not behaviours. Again, detailing behaviour such as methods of purging can be interpreted as tip sharing by those vulnerable to disordered eating.