Reporting suicide

Understand the rules the press should follow when reporting on suicide and with help to decide if you want to speak to the press or not

Information summary

This information is intended for people affected by suicide and its reporting, such as bereaved families and friends, and the organisations who support them.

This leaflet explains the rules the press should follow when reporting on suicide. If you are affected, it can help you decide if you want to speak to the press or not.

It also includes information about the support IPSO offers, and gives details of other useful organisations.

The main points:

  • Suicide is a serious public health issue. It is in the public interest that journalists report on stories involving suicide accurately and responsibly.
  • The Editors’ Code of Practice, the rules of IPSO regulation, does not allow excessive reporting of the details of the method of suicide.
  • To ensure justice is carried out fairly and openly, journalists and the public can attend inquests. Reports about inquests must accurately reflect what is heard.
  • Journalists must approach bereaved families and friends sensitively. It is your choice if you wish to speak to them.

We are here to provide advice and support if you have any concerns about a published article or the behaviour of a journalist.

Why the press reports on suicide

It is in the public interest that the press is free to report on important societal issues, such as suicide.

By responsibly reporting on suicide, the press can:

  • Raise awareness of a significant public health issue.
  • Encourage people to seek help and signpost sources of support.
  • Help prevent suicide and save lives.

Journalists must take special care in reporting on suicide. We work with expert organisations to produce guidance for journalists, to ensure their reporting is as responsible as possible.

What are the rules the press must follow when reporting on suicide?

Journalists must follow the Code carefully when reporting on an inquest.

Journalists can:

  • Report on the death, as it is a matter of public record.
  • Accurately report on anything which is said during an inquest. It is not common for content from suicide notes or similar messages left by a person who has died to be read out at inquests. But if they
    are read out, journalists may report this.
  • Sympathetically and discreetly approach members of the public, including bereaved family and friends, to ask if you would like to be interviewed.

Social media

Journalists are allowed to use social media and memorial sites when researching and writing stories. However, they must do so carefully, particularly when working on sensitive content, to ensure they do not breach the Code.

Journalists can:

  • Approach bereaved family and friends via social media, to make sure they are reporting accurate information about the person who has died.
  • Publish information that is publicly available on social media sites, including photos of the person who has died, and comments from family and friends paying tribute.
  • Publish information from the social media account of the person who has died, if the account has no privacy restrictions and the information is not private.

In most cases, journalists cannot:

  • Publish information which is protected by privacy settings on social media and is not in the public domain.
  • Publish information which might intrude into someone’s grief or shock. This comes under Clause 4 of the Editors’ Code. All complaints are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

If you are worried about how journalists have used information from social media, you might find it helpful to read our advice on the topic. You can also call us for advice on 0300 123 2220.

Talking to the press

If you are approached for an interview and agree to do it, you may want to ask:

  • Who is the journalist you are speaking to and for which publication? While no story will be the same, this may help you get an idea of the format and style it may take.
  • Where would you like the interview to take place? You may want to choose somewhere private where you feel safe. You may also like to be accompanied by a friend or family member.
  • Whether you would be able to see how your story looks before it is published. If this is important to you, you should find out in advance if this is possible. Be aware journalists do not have to do this.

Remember that a journalist may take notes or record what you say in order to accurately report your story. You may also like to record or take notes, or ask for the questions in advance.

Concerns about the press

Some people who have been bereaved may find it difficult to deal with media interest. If you have concerns about how your story is being or has been covered, including the behaviour of journalists, we are here to help.

We operate a 24-hour emergency anti-harassment helpline. Please contact 0300 123 22 20 during office hours, or 07799 903 929 if calling out of hours.

We can give you advice about what to do next or about making a complaint.

Useful organistations

Delivers support services, national campaigns and community-building. It works to challenge stereotypes and stigma preventing people talking about suicide.

National Helpline: 0800 58 58

Is a bereavement charity. It supports people through its website, national helpline, group and individual services. It also campaigns to make sure bereaved people get a voice. Its work includes specialised services for those bereaved by suicide.

National Helpline: 0808 808 1677

Is a charity that works to provide expertise on “state-related deaths” to bereaved people. This includes expert advice and assistance on all aspects of investigation and inquest processes, including the rights of bereaved people.

Is dedicated to suicide prevention, mental health and emotional wellbeing in young people. Alongside its campaigning and policy recommendations, it provides advice and guidance for those in need.

National Helpline: 0800 068 41

Is is a national charity that provides 24/7 support for those at risk of suicide, as well as working to make suicide prevention a priority for parliamentarians and policy-makers.

National Helpline: 116 123

Is a UK network of suicide bereavement organisations and people with lived experience.

Offers peer-led support to adults affected by suicide through a National Support line, email, local support groups and online forums.

National Helpline: 0300 111 5065

Is a charity supporting individuals bereaved by suicide and aims to open up the conversation around suicide-related grief. It offers up to 12 free sessions of specialised suicide bereavement counselling for individuals in England and Wales.

Helpline: 0800 054 8400

Supports racialised and working-class communities through workshops, research, training and advocacy services.

Helps children, teenagers and young adults navigate grief through on-demand services, support, and counselling. It also provides support for parents, carers, school staff and healthcare professionals.

National Helpline: 0808 020 021

IPSO is available 24-hours a day to discuss any concerns you might have.

From 9am to 5.30pm please contact us on 0300 123 22 20.

Out of hours please contact 07799 903 929, leave a message explaining your concerns and you will be phoned back.

How we can help

Click here for practical advice and guidance regarding urgent harassment issues

Urgent harassment issues

Click here if you need advice about the Editors’ Code of Practice or are concerned about a story or a journalist’s behaviour

Contact IPSO

Click here to make a complaint

Complaints form