E-3 Media Education

Objective

  • Reduce the suicide contagion effect by providing editors with guidelines for reporting youth suicide and suicide prevention resource information.

Action

Audience

  • Editors in all communications media, including newspapers, radio, and television.

Rationale and Efficacy

  • There is persuasive evidence that outbreaks of suicide -i.e., "suicide contagion"- occurs, and adolescents and young adults are particularly vulnerable. Studies show that mass media coverage of the suicide of a youth can influence others to engage in suicidal behavior. The more networks carry a story about suicide, the greater the increase in suicides thereafter.
  • The manner of reporting a suicide may increase or decrease the possibility of contagion. Media guidelines recommend that excessive reporting of suicide, how-to descriptions, glorification of persons who commit suicide and simplistic explanations be avoided. When suicide is reported, prevention information and community resources should also be provided.
  • Media approaches to reporting suicide can increase or decrease the possibility of additional suicidal behavior in a community.

Implementation Considerations

  • On an issue as sensitive as youth suicide, it is important that communities work with the media to achieve a balance between the mission of the news media and the need for responsible coverage.
  • Media guidelines should be regularly updated, repeated, and reinforced to reflect new developments in suicide reporting and to ensure that both new and experienced editors stay informed.

Sample Implementation Activities

  • Collaborate with media representatives in developing youth suicide reporting guidelines using the media guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as a model.

  • Resource for media professionals and community organizers: Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Association of Suicidology, and Annenberg Public Policy Center.
  • Provide guidelines to local media personnel in a position to report youth suicide.
  • Provide the guidelines to key partners in youth suicide prevention, such as mental health professionals, community leaders, survivors, and gatekeepers.
  • Present/distribute guidelines at media association meetings.
  • Identify someone to collect and analyze local news articles, television/radio news coverage, and other media on how youth suicide is reported and whether reports include crisis lines and other local/state/ national resources for help.  
Last Updated: Mar 18, 2015