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 imitative 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.