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Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition

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The Public and The Media

There has long been a belief that certain ways of reporting suicide can romanticize it or lead to a "copycat effect."

Consider the press coverage of Marilyn Monroe. There were 197 more suicides above average after her death. This phenomenon even has a name "The Werther Effect" and much research has been devoted to it.

 

Media guidelines have been created, which include that explicit descriptions should be avoided, that suicide should not be sensationalized and that stress the importance of providing information about help services.

To improve the way suicide is reported in the media, national organizations including the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Association of Suicidology and others have joined together to produce recommendations for the media:


Reporting on Suicide:

Some recommendations for the media include:

  • Avoid detailed descriptions of the suicide, including location and method
  • Avoid romanticizing someone who has died by suicide.
  • Avoid using the words "committed suicide" or "failed" suicide attempt
  • Use "died by suicide" or "completed suicide" instead, as to not associate suicide with crime or sin
  • Include a suicide hotline phone number or numbers for crisis intervention centers

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