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April 26, 2018

Press regulator IPSO to develop new guidance on reporting suicide in collaboration with Samaritans charity

By Charlotte Tobitt

The UK’s largest press regulator will develop new guidance on suicide reporting as it partners with mental health charity the Samaritans.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation said “much progress” has been made in the way the UK media reports suicide, but added: “There is still more that can be done.”

The regulator announced this week that it will work with the Samaritans throughout this year to help journalists continue to report sensitively on suicide, publishing regular blogs by the charity starting next week.

In the coming months, these blogs will cover reporting on suicides in public places, inquests, self-harm, young suicides and suicide clusters – exploring research around the subject in detail.

IPSO said: “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 Samaritans blogs will also cover their media advisory service, which provides practical recommendations for journalists on areas such as working with bereaved families in the aftermath of a suicide, and reporting on rail suicides and murder-suicides.

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Last year, IPSO issued new guidance on the reporting of deaths and inquests, including advice about suicide reporting.

IPSO now plans to issue further guidance this year specifically on the sensitive and appropriate reporting of suicide.

In December 2015, it created a standalone clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice regarding suicide.

Clause 5 states: “When reporting suicide, to prevent simulative acts care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used, while taking into account the media’s right to report legal proceedings.”

The fresh advice given last year went further, telling journalists to “take great care” in selecting what details to include in a story and says they should be prepared to explain their decisions.

It added: “Journalists should take particular care when reporting on a novel method of suicide, to prevent the likelihood of attention being drawn to a new method of suicide and the risk therefore of others using this method.”

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