Communication and discussion around self-harm should apply media codes of practice and the Mindframe guidelines to minimise harm.
Available research suggests that media and communications professionals should consider media codes of practice and the Mindframe guidelines when choosing to report or communicate about self-harm.
The following Mindframe recommendations will support media when communicating about self-harm.
Self-harm refers to a person intentionally causing pain or damage to their own body. This behaviour may be motivated as a way of expressing or controlling distressing feelings or thoughts.
Self-harm and suicide are distinct and separate acts although some people who self-harm are at an increased risk of suicide.
Acts of self-harm should always be taken seriously as they can be physically dangerous and may indicate an underlying mental health issue.
Recommendations for reporting on self-harm
- Minimise detailed description of methods. If it is important to the story, discuss the method in general terms such as ‘self-harm’ or ‘self-injury’. Explicit depictions of self-harm have been linked to copycat behaviour and methods of self-harm are often similar or the same as methods of suicide.
- Ensure there is accuracy and balance. Balanced reporting that provides insight into the realities of self-harm can increase community understanding and reduce the stigma associated with self-harm.
- Reduce the prominence of a story. Place the story on the inside pages of a newspaper or further down the order of broadcast reports and remove ‘self-harm’ from headlines.
- Take care not to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes. This includes stereotypes such as people self-harming to manipulate others or situations, attract attention, feign suicide, or belong to a subculture as this can lead to negative community attitudes and stigma.
- Use appropriate language. Take care not to use colloquialisms or terminology out of context. Referring to self-harm as a ‘fad’ or ‘phase’ can minimise the seriousness of the issue. Separate a person from their behaviour, as using labels to describe people as ‘cutters’ or ‘self-harmers’ can increase stigma.
- Include help-seeking information. This provides support options for people who may be distressed or prompted to seek help following the story.