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How to Cover A Suicide August 29, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, Suicide.
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This information was taken from a website addressing how to cover news event associated with suicide. http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/WA

Quick Tips to Improve Mental Health Reporting

Tips for Reporting on Suicide

Copycat/ Suicide Contagion is real. Research shows that the incidence of suicide increases following news coverage of suicide. The following guidelines are suggested to minimize copycat attempts:

  • Refrain from using photographs of grieving relatives and friends when a suicide has occurred. Photographs might encourage someone contemplating suicide to act as a way to get attention or get back at someone, creating a dangerous copycat effect.  Youth are especially vulnerable to these effects.
  • Do not report the method or place of suicide in detail.  Exposure to suicide methods, including photographs, can encourage imitation among vulnerable individuals.
  • Do not portray suicide as a heroic or romantic result of a single event or cause.  This obscures the long and painful process that results in completing suicide.  Over 90 percent of suicide victims have a significant psychiatric illness at the time of their death.
  • Always include information about crisis intervention services in the area and a referral phone number.
  • Do not use suicide in headlines, even when they take place in public.  This unnecessarily dramatizes the event and shifts the focus from the tragic loss of life.  There are exceptions, as in the term “suicide bomber” when reporting on terrorist activities.

Facts About Mental Illness and Suicide

The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.

People who die by suicide are frequently experiencing undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated depression.

Worldwide, suicide is among the three leading causes of death among people aged 15 to 44.

  • An estimated 2-15 % of persons who have been diagnosed with major depression die by suicide. Suicide risk is highest in depressed individuals who feel hopeless about the future, those who have just been discharged from the hospital, those who have a family history of suicide and those who have made a suicide attempt in the past.
  • An estimated 3-20% of persons who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder die by suicide. Hopelessness, recent hospital discharge, family history, and prior suicide attempts all raise the risk of suicide in these individuals.
  • An estimated 6-15% of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia die by suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death in those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Between 75 and 95% of these individuals are male.
  • Also at high risk are individuals who suffer from depression at the same time as another mental illness. Specifically, the presence of substance abuse, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder put those with depression at greater risk for suicide.
  • People with personality disorders are approximately three times as likely to die by suicide than those without. Between 25 and 50% of these individuals also have a substance abuse disorder or major depressive disorder.

http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/suicideprevention/suicidefacts.asp

Taken from http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/qt_suicide.php

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Comments»

1. troy - August 29, 2010

I had just found out recently that suicide rates outnumbers homicide by almost 2 to 1 ….I mention this because it came as a shock to me! I suppose though, because it was a shock, that perhaps many of the points you mention are thankfully in use to various degrees.


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