Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Suicide not in the media

While I remain doubtful that suicide “contagion” exists or is a significant problem (and there are studies to back up that belief), I have pulled some of this information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s report: Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media and they strongly caution regarding the contagion. I recommend giving it a read, particularly for media folks, or pass it on to your media friends. Although, I wish it was more supportive regarding reporting about suicide.

I think reporting on an individual’s death who has died by suicide and not reporting that fact is wrong. People ought to know that individuals are dying by suicide in their community and that it is a significant problem. It doesn’t have to be a big thing in the article, seeming to “glorify” suicide, but a mention seems appropriate to me. In this case, as I am certain is often the case, the “community” knew that the manner of death was suicide, so it was not a secret.

A brief mention of suicide near the end of the article along with the facts about suicide seems like it could be useful for others. Letting the community know that suicide happens, and that it happens more frequently than they may realize, is very important in my eyes. Letting the community know that suicide most often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness (which is often undiagnosed, untreated or both) is important. And letting the community know that help is available for those that may be considering suicide or those with mental illness in need of treatment, and just as importantly where/how to get it, would be a public service.

If we refrain from talking honestly about suicide and/or mental illness the stigma will remain and some folks who need help will not get it. Some of those folks will end up in my office and I would rather that they not.

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