Media guidelines on suicide can improve our understanding of this sensitive and complex issue – Nevill
Fine Gael TD for Limerick and President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Dan Neville, has welcomed the publication by the Irish Association of Suicidology and Samaritans Ireland of media guidelines for reporting suicide and self harm. The guidelines were launched at the 17th Annual Conference of the Irish Association of Suicidology which takes place in Derry today (Wednesday) and tomorrow.
“I believe that the publication of media guidelines for reporting suicide and self harm can positively inform how the media convey the issue of suicide and, by extension, help improve the wider public’s understanding of this sensitive and complex issue.
“It is important that issues around suicide must be brought into the open and that myths about suicide are debunked. It is only through a greater understanding, awareness and research of the problem that we will identify the measures needed to prevent suicide and help those at risk of taking their lives.
“Suicide claims the lives of more than 600 people annually in Ireland, and while it affects all ages it is often most common among adolescents and young adults. The media has a vital role to play in how the members of the public perceive the issue of suicide. However, some serious difficulties surround the reporting of suicide and self harm.
“It is right that suicide should be reported as the public must be informed of tragic events in their community. However, the right of the media to inform should not extend to intruding into the lives of the bereaved. In the case of suicide, it is important to use discretion in how it is reported, as research shows that explicit descriptions or pictures of funerals of persons died by suicide can provoke copycat behaviour.
“There is a fine line between sensitive, nuanced reporting and sensationalising or oversimplifying the issue. Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter related causes. Accounts that explain a suicide on the basis of a single incident should be challenged.
“There are manifold reasons behind each individual suicide and suicide should not be portrayed as the inevitable outcome of serious personal problems. Discussing the risk factors encourages a better understanding of suicide and self harm and can ultimately help us to tackle these issues as a society.”