Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals

WHO Launches Updated Suicide Prevention Resource for Media Professionals

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently launched the fourth version of “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals”. Developed through ongoing collaboration between WHO and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), this resource is a significant tool towards promoting responsible media reporting on suicide. It highlights the crucial role played by the media in suicide prevention and encourages sensitive, informed, and ethical reporting on this critical issue.

Suicide is a pressing public health concern that affects individuals, families, and communities worldwide. According to the WHO, approximately 700,000 people die by suicide each year, making it one of the leading causes of death globally. It is also estimated that for every life lost to suicide, many more people attempt suicide.

Media outlets have a powerful influence on public perception and the way they report on suicide can help or hinder suicide prevention efforts. Irresponsible or sensationalised coverage can inadvertently contribute to ‘Werther effect’, where suicidal behaviour is imitated by vulnerable individuals after exposure to such content. On the other hand, responsible reporting can play a protective role through the dissemination of stories of hope and overcoming suicidal behaviour. Therefore, it is essential for media professionals to be well-informed about the best practices in reporting on suicide, and this is where the updated WHO resource can be supportive.

“These revised WHO / IASP media guidelines cover the most up-to-date evidence about how to mitigate the risk of contagion associated with the reporting about celebrity and non-celebrity suicides. They also highlight how to bring up the topic of suicide prevention safely with stories of lived experience and mastery of crisis,“ said Professor Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, co-editor of the guideline.

Responsible media reporting is one of the evidence-based approaches essential to suicide prevention. In this context, these updated recommendations provide media professionals with practical tips on how to report on suicide responsibly and minimise the risks of the effect. The resource offers clear guidance on language, framing, and portrayal of suicide, aiming to reduce stigma, provide hope, and encourage help-seeking behaviour. It also emphasises the importance of collaboration with local suicide prevention experts during the reporting and drafting process.

Moreover, the guide recognizes the role of media in raising awareness about mental health issues and providing information on available support services such as helplines and suicide prevention centres. Responsible reporting can be a life-saving tool when used to encourage individuals in crisis to seek help. By fostering understanding and empathy within communities and by providing accurate information on where and how to seek help, crisis can be averted. In addition, the guide highlights the significance of including messages of hope, recovery, and resilience in stories related to suicide. In this way, media outlets can contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage individuals to access support when needed.

“The updated WHO resource for media professionals is based on the most current research, clinical, and academic knowledge, and input from suicide loss survivors and those with lived experience,” said Dr Dan Reidenberg, co-editor of the guideline. “We hope that journalists use this to help guide their work reporting on suicide and suicide prevention safely, thereby reducing the risk of contagion.”

The launch of the updated “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals” by the World Health Organization is a commendable step towards promoting responsible reporting on suicide. As media outlets have a significant role to play in suicide prevention, stigma reduction, and raising awareness, the launch of this resource is both timely and appreciated. We look forward to its wide dissemination and the implementation of these recommendations globally.


Updated Resource: Preventing suicide: a resource for media professionals 

IASP’s ‘Suicide and the Media’ Outreach Brief.

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