​How the media can help de-stigmatise suicide

When it comes to discussing the complex issue of suicide, Australian media and communications professionals have an important role to play in contributing to awareness, breaking down stigma and myths and ultimately encouraging help-seeking behaviour among individuals, families and communities.

Everymind Acting Program Manager, Sara Bartlett recently spoke with a number of media outlets around how media can cover the issue of suicide responsibly.

“First and foremost, media should validate the grief and loss experienced by those impacted following the sudden death of an individual and share links to help-seeking services and information,” Ms Bartlett said.

“This encourages anyone who may be distressed by the sudden loss of someone to seek help if they need it.

“It is also incredibly important for media to play an active role in highlighting that when it comes to suicide, in instances in which it has been confirmed by authorities, that it is a highly complex issue.

“What we know from the evidence is that there is no single reason or condition that can be pointed to as a causal factor when it comes to someone taking their life through suicide.

“This does not mean suicide can’t be discussed in the media, it absolutely can be, and when done so safely and responsibly can support the prevention of suicide.

“Responsible coverage, that includes discussion of the complexity of suicide and mental ill-health as issues broadly, as well as in relation to specific events or individuals, can assist in changing public misconceptions, challenging myths and encourage community discussion about the issue.”

Ms Bartlett leads a diversity of Everymind projects including Mindframe, Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs, Life in Mind and the National communications charter among others.

She is available to talk to media on a broad range of issues related to communicating safely about suicide, mental ill-health and alcohol and other drugs including:

  • Why it is important not to speculate on suicide as a cause of a death prior to confirmation by relevant authorities.
  • How stigma and harm can be minimised in media coverage of suicide, mental ill-health and drug and alcohol issues.
  • Why discussion of explicit information around method and location should be avoided in media coverage.
  • The importance of safe and respectful language when discussing suicide, mental ill-health and alcohol and other drugs.
  • How the voice of lived experience in stories on suicide and mental ill-health can be included responsibility and safely.
  • How media can ensure coverage minimises harm and encourages help-seeking behaviour.

Listen to some of her recent interviews here:

Read a recent research article in which Sara co-authored on below, outlining the importance of including help-seeking information in stories referencing celebrity suicide:

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