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New guidance on reporting suicide

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) yesterday issued guidance for editors and journalists on reporting suicide.

New guidance on reporting suicide

The guidance aims to improve editorial standards by helping journalists to understand how to cover this important and sensitive subject responsibly. Based on the Editors’ Code of Practice, it outlines key questions to consider and includes a number of useful case studies. It includes information on both the importance and risks of reporting suicide, sensitivity when reporting, and what may be considered excessive – and therefore risky – detail about methods of suicide.

The information was developed after discussions with journalists and organisations working in the area of suicide prevention, including Samaritans and PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide. It also draws on lessons learned through IPSO’s complaints and pre-publication services.

Head of Standards Charlotte Urwin said: “There is a public interest in reporting suicide to raise awareness of this significant public health issue but care must be taken to limit the risk of vulnerable people being influenced by coverage and choosing to end their own lives.”

“We recognise the importance of supporting journalists and editors to report responsibly on challenging issues, and a key part of IPSO’s regulatory role is to provide guidance, training and engagement leading to tangible improvements in press standards.”

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, said: “In the UK suicide is the main cause of death in young people under 35 years. Every day we work with vulnerable young people struggling between life and death, those worried about them, and the families and friends distraught by the suicide of a young person.”

“IPSO plays a vital role guiding members of the press through the moral maze of reporting suicide. We value its guidance and commend these strengthened guidelines.”

Samaritans Executive Lead for the Media Advice Service, Lorna Fraser, said: “We welcome IPSO’s new guidance, which will help journalists report suicide responsibly. I can’t overstate the importance of taking care when covering suicide in the media – as research has shown, it can make the difference between life and death for vulnerable people.”

“Journalists are in a unique position because they can raise awareness of the issues surrounding suicide and encourage people to reach out and seek help. Samaritans media guidelines and media advisors are here to support them.”