The suicide prevention and mental health sector play an important role in safely communicating about suicide and mental ill-health to the Australian public.
Using a range of strategies the sector can collaboratively build capacity with the community through:
- appropriate, sector-consistent guidance on providing information on suicide, mental health and mental ill-health to media professionals
- insight around the potential impact of media reporting of mental ill-health and suicide, based on research and evidence
- information and explanation of the different sectors within the media
- strategies to maximise opportunities to represent mental ill-health and suicide appropriately in the media
- guidance and tactics on how to respond to positive and negative reporting of suicide, mental health and mental ill-health
- access to relevant reference material including facts and statistics, research, resources, help-seeking information and services
Talking to media about suicide
Suicide is a topic of legitimate public interest for the media to cover.
The media has an important role to play in influencing social attitudes to suicide and potentially the actions of vulnerable people. Research indicates that the way suicide is reported is significant, with some styles of reporting linked to increased rates of suicide deaths.
By learning how to work with the media, people involved in mental health and suicide prevention sector can help to ensure the right messages are being shared with the public.
Key points to remember when talking to the media about suicide:
- consider the potential impact of the story and whether you should be involved
- provide expert comment or advice where possible
- provide the media with helpline contacts and information about crisis support services, treatment and support options
- a guide for media about the correct help-seeking information and why inclusion is necessary
- communicate the need to avoid description of the method and location of suicide
- check your language does not glamorise suicide or present it as normal or an option for dealing with problems
- help journalists with context about suicide by providing general information about suicide and its relationship to mental ill-health and other risk factors
- exercise caution when providing access to people who have been bereaved by suicide
- promote the Mindframe guidelines and website to journalists.
Talking to media about mental ill-health
The media is an important source of information for the community about mental health issues and plays an important role in influencing the way people think and act towards those who are affected by mental ill-health.
Those working within the mental health and suicide prevention sector often need to work closely with media to advance the messages of the sector or respond to issues in the community.
As sources for media stories, those involved with the mental health and suicide prevention sector need to understand the evidence potential impacts that media reporting about these issues can have.
Key points to remember when talking to the media about mental ill-health:
- when considering whether or not to participate in the story, ask yourself: does it provide an opportunity to contribute to community understanding of mental health and mental ill-health?
- provide the media with qualified expert comment and/or advice where possible
- provide appropriate helpline contacts (telephone and online) and information about treatment and support options
- avoid language that is labelling or stigmatising and provide alternatives when media professionals use such language
- be careful that you don’t inadvertently reinforce stereotypes such as those that link mental ill-health with violence or suggest individuals are unable to work or lead fulfilling lives
- consumers and carers considering talking to the media should have adequate information to make a decision about participation and have access to appropriate support throughout the process
- whenever possible promote the Mindframe guidelines to the media.
National Communications Charter
The National Communications Charter (The Charter) is a unified approach to mental health and suicide prevention supports coordinated and consistent messaging around mental health and suicide prevention.
It is designed to guide the way organisations talk about mental health and suicide prevention, with each other and with the community.
Hosted on Life in Mind, a national digital gateway that connects Australian suicide prevention services and programs to each other and the community, it is a platform for knowledge exchange as well as sector leadership through collaboration and engagement.