IPSO and Samaritans Blog: Helping editors and journalists to report on suicide

Former Head of Standards Charlotte Urwin introduces a new blogging partnership between IPSO and Samaritans which will help editors and journalists to report on suicide.

The way in which the UK media has reported suicide has changed fundamentally over the years – in part due to charities, like Samaritans working in the area of suicide prevention – but also due to a real recognition among editors and journalists of the impact of poor quality reporting on vulnerable individuals.

Although much progress has been made there is still more that can be done. In 2015, the Editors’ Code of Practice (the set of rules that publishers who are members of IPSO must follow) was changed so that the reporting of suicide became a stand-alone clause, reflecting concerns about the publication of excessive detail about methods of suicide.

Part of IPSO’s regulatory role is to consider complaints under the Editors’ Code, but we also have a broader role to promote and uphold high standards in journalism. One of the ways in which we can do this is by connecting journalists and editors with different expertise, knowledge and groups, particularly around sensitive and difficult topics which can be challenging to report on.

This year, we are going to be working with Samaritans to help journalists to report on suicide. We will publish regular blogs authored by Samaritans which will cover in more detail the research around the reporting of suicide and key points for editors and journalists to consider. Over the coming months, they will write about areas including reporting on suicides in public places, inquests, self-harm, young suicides and suicide clusters.

They will also cover their media advisory service which promotes sensitive and appropriate reporting of suicide and provide practical recommendations for journalists. Their guidelines and supplementary factsheets, which include areas such as working with bereaved families in the aftermath of a suicide, reporting on rail suicides and murder-suicides, can be found on their website.

IPSO has released guidance on this topic, following last year’s guidance on the reporting of deaths and inquests which includes advice about the reporting of suicides.

There is a definite public interest in the reporting of suicide: responsible reporting can improve public understanding of the issue and encourage vulnerable people to seek help and to speak about suicidal feelings.

Ultimately, we can only reduce the numbers of suicides each year if we continue to talk about the issue. Through information, training and guidance, IPSO can help journalists to cover this important topic without putting vulnerable people at risk.

The first blog, introducing Samaritans and their work will be published next week. In the meantime if you’d like to hear more information about Samaritans’ training and advisory service, please contact Lorna Fraser, Executive Lead Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service or Monica Hawley, Media Monitoring Officer.

Samaritans’ is helpline available round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever you are going through. It’s free to call them on 116 123 and you don't have to be suicidal to call them.