Reporters urged to dispel myths surrounding suicide

A new report on the reporting of mental health and suicide from Department of Health-backed charity Shift has some topical advice for reporters.

After the discovery yesterday of the body of 16-year-old Jenna Parry, the 17th apparent suicide in the Welsh county of Bridgend in little over a year, reports are again today across all national newspapers.

The report, What’s the Story? Reporting Mental Health and Suicide, which is endorsed by the NUJ and the Society of Editors, warns against perpetuating myths surrounding suicide such as that people who talk about killing themselves don’t carry it out.

Last night the MP for Bridgend Madeline Moon said media coverage may have had an affect on the high number of cases and the parents of one of the dead, 15-year-old Nathaniel Pritchard, said that media coverage “had put the idea into Nathaniel’s head”.

The report calls for context when reporting – journalists may think suicides are rare and highly newsworthy, but there are around 6,000 in the UK every year, nearly twice the number that die from road traffice accidents.

It counsels sub-editors and reporters against sensationalising reports of suicides and from revealing too much detail of someone died, for fear of inspiring further copycat deaths.

Shift recommends that media reports contain the helpline number of charities such as Samaritans, which is 08457 90 90 90.

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