When Should Suicide be Covered?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) publication on media coverage of suicide in 2008 verifies the links between media coverage and imitative behaviour, it stated that extensive coverage may influence copycat acts. Therefore, journalists need to be aware when covering the story on suicide.

After a Canadian hockey player Rick Rypien committed suicide, most journalists avoid using the word ‘suicide’ in the story. Instead, they use ‘died suddenly, and lived with depression’ (Maffin 2011) and all other words to describe his death. The WHO stated that ‘Vulnerable individuals may be influenced to engage in imitative behaviours by reports of suicide, particularly if the coverage is extensive, prominent, sensationalist and/or explicitly describes the method of suicide’. Because suicide is a public health issue and it may ignite copycat behavior, journalists do not need to report all suicide cases. Report from DART Centre (2014) suggested that journalists can only cover the newsworthy suicide cases such as individual was famous or the suicide was undeniably public. The report also stated that not all suicides are necessarily news, so journalists should choose carefully. Journalists can cover stories that have adequate space to do the issue justice

Maffin (2011) suggested that journalists should start reporting on suicide more because people will find these news online so journalists should take the responsibility to cover suicide cases and educate people through the stories.



Maffin 2011, It’s Time the Media Starts Reporting Suicides, In Tod Maffin.

2014, In Depth: Covering Suicide, Dart Centre.


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