Suicide reporting guidelines have been available to journalists for over 20 years, yet the way suicide is reported continues to be problematic all over the world. Editorial deadlines, the 24-hour news cycle and understaffing can all contribute to poor, and sometimes harmful, reporting. Now, a resource launched by a Bournemouth University (BU) academic aims to help professional and student journalists report on suicide responsibly and compassionately.
Co-created by BU’s Dr Ann Luce and Dr Sallyanne Duncan from the University of Strathclyde, the Suicide Reporting Toolkit is a free, online resource that enables journalists to make ethical decisions while under pressure from various news processes.
Dr Luce, Associate Professor in Journalism and Communication, said: “We know from research that reporting suicide responsibly requires sensitivity and compassion. Our journalism has the potential to cause harm to vulnerable people if we do not report suicide responsibly and ethically. This new toolkit offers practical resources for both journalists and journalism educators to make sure we do just that.”
Dr Luce co-authored the Responsible Suicide Reporting model (RSR) with Dr Duncan last year, which has formed the basis of the toolkit. By embedding established reporting guidelines on suicide - from the World Health Organisation, Samaritans, Independent Press Standards Organisation, National Union of Journalists and Society for Professional Journalists - with practical examples from the RSR model, Dr Luce hopes to make things clearer and easier for journalists while working on stories.
The website also includes a variety of helpful resources for those reporting - or learning to report - about suicide, including videos, research, advice and links to useful articles and organisations. There are also self-care tips for journalists, editors and managers who may find covering a traumatic story challenging themselves - a priority for seasoned journalists and inexperienced reporters alike.
While it remains a challenging and complex topic, the reporting of suicide can help people understand more about the subject and help break down taboos. Hopefully, the Suicide Reporting Toolkit will help journalists question their choices as they produce content.
For more information or advice about suicide prevention visit: https://www.samaritans.org/.