There is a large body of research literature documenting the potentially harmful effect of news reporting of suicide deaths on population suicide rates. Concerning aspects of reporting include description of suicide methods, sensational headlines, and excessive reporting – these can lead to suicidal behaviour among vulnerable people. Furthermore, associating the negative effects of the pandemic with suicidal behaviour can normalise it as a way of coping at a time of crisis.’
‘We recommend that editors…
1) Remove references to methods of suicide from article titles and avoid detailed (e.g. how a ligature was attached) description of methods in the body of the article. Descriptions of a novel method of suicide should be avoided.
2) Avoid speculation about ‘triggers’ or cause of suicide (in this case COVID-19 and its associated public health measures). Suicide is extremely complex, and it is rarely the case that a single event or factor leads someone to take their own life. We recommend that a statement about the complexity prefaces any speculation.
3) Avoid sensational language, such as “surge”, “spike”, “crisis”, “tsunami” and “epidemic” when describing the potential impact of the pandemic – these terms have been used out of context, generating sensational news headlines. There is currently no strong evidence of increases in suicide deaths during the first few months of the pandemic (John et al (2020))
4) Care should be taken when referring to suicidal behaviour in young people, as this group is particularly susceptible to suicide contagion…more