IPSO Blog: World Suicide Prevention Day 2021

On World Suicide Prevention Day, Head of Communications Vikki Julian highlights IPSO's resources to help with responsible reporting of suicide.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of suicide and help prevent death by suicide globally.

Suicide is a significant public health concern and there is a public interest in reporting on it to raise awareness, encourage people to seek help and direct vulnerable people to sources of support.

However, suicide can be a challenging and complex subject to report, with potentially serious consequences if it is not covered responsibly.

A wide body of research evidence shows that media portrayals of suicide, including information published by newspapers and magazines, can influence suicidal behaviour and lead to imitative acts, particularly among vulnerable groups or young people. Research also shows that overly detailed reporting does not just influence the choice of method of a suicide but can lead to additional deaths which would otherwise not have occurred.

The way in which the UK media has reported suicide has changed fundamentally over the year due to charities working in suicide prevention and a recognition amongst journalists of the impact of poor quality reporting on vulnerable individuals.

Journalists have a basic right to report the fact of a person’s death, even if surviving family members would prefer for there to be no reporting and regard the death as private, as it is a matter of public record.

The Editors’ Code, the set of rules IPSO regulated publishers must follow, recognises the importance of reporting suicide responsibly and requires that editors avoid including excessive detail of the method.

To help editors and journalists to cover suicide responsibly, IPSO has guidance on reporting of suicide and the Editors’ Code. There are also lots of other resources including a series of blogs from Samaritans which explore specific challenges, a podcast featuring Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide and Samaritans as well as many external resources from suicide prevention charities.   

Journalists must carefully consider the amount of detail that they report when talking about suicide. But reporting can encourage people to seek help and to speak about suicidal feelings. Ultimately, suicide is preventable and we can only reduce the numbers of suicides each year if we continue to talk about the issue.

Samaritans are 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.