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The Importance of Sensitivity: Responsible Reporting on Suicide

By September 9, 2023September 12th, 2023Blog

The media plays a significant role in shaping public perception and influencing societal attitudes. With this power comes a great responsibility, especially when it comes to reporting on sensitive topics like suicide. The way suicide is covered in the media can have profound effects on individuals, families, and communities. It is crucial for media outlets to exercise sensitivity and caution when reporting on this delicate subject matter. Responsible reporting on suicide matters!

Preventing Suicide Contagion

One of the primary concerns associated with media coverage of suicide is the potential for suicide contagion, also known as the “copycat effect.” Sensationalized or detailed reporting of suicide methods can lead to an increase in suicidal behaviors among vulnerable individuals who are already struggling. The media has the power to inadvertently glamorize or romanticize suicide, making it crucial to approach the topic with utmost care.

Respecting Privacy and Grief

When media outlets report on suicide, they are often dealing with individuals who have experienced profound loss and grief. Insensitive reporting can exacerbate the pain of those who are already suffering. Sensational headlines and graphic descriptions can further traumatize families and friends of the deceased, and can even deter individuals from seeking help due to fear of judgment.

Promoting Mental Health Awareness and Help-Seeking Behavior

Responsible reporting on suicide can actually contribute to positive change by raising awareness about mental health issues and encouraging help-seeking behavior. When media stories focus on resources, prevention, and recovery, they can serve as a catalyst for open conversations surrounding mental health. By providing accurate information about available support systems and treatment options, media outlets can empower individuals to seek help and assistance when they need it most.

Avoiding Stigmatization

Historically, the media has often perpetuated harmful stereotypes and stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide. Careless reporting can reinforce these negative perceptions, leading to discrimination and isolation for individuals struggling with mental health challenges. Sensitivity in reporting can help break down these barriers, fostering a more compassionate and understanding society.

Following Reporting Guidelines

Various reputable organizations, such as the coalition of experts on Reporting Suicide, who have established guidelines for responsible reporting on suicide. These guidelines provide media professionals with clear recommendations on language, framing, and the presentation of resources. Adhering to these guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of negative consequences associated with sensationalism.



In an age where information spreads rapidly and is readily accessible, the media’s role in shaping public opinion and influencing behavior cannot be underestimated. When it comes to reporting on sensitive topics like suicide, the media wields tremendous power to either help or harm. By adopting a sensitive and responsible approach to reporting on suicide, media outlets can contribute positively to mental health awareness, prevention efforts, and the overall well-being of individuals and communities. It is a responsibility that should be approached with the utmost care and empathy.

View Give an Hour’s Suicide Prevention Toolkit and Guideline to Media here.