Suicide. It’s a difficult topic to bring up and an even more difficult topic for the media to report. News stories, articles, and dramatic presentations on the subject of suicide have come under question in the last few years. The concern has been that such presentations may have encouraged some persons to attempt suicide. There is confusion about how the subject of suicide should be treated to minimize this danger.
As a service to the news media and to the people making public presentation on the subject of suicide, the American Association of Suicidology and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) offer the following guidelines. These are intended to be general statements to aid in a responsible presentation of information about suicide.
To discourage imitative or copycat suicides, it is important to avoid or minimize:
Reporting specific details of the method
Descriptions of a suicide as unexplainable e.g., “He/she had everything going for him/her.”
Reporting romanticized versions of the reasons for the suicide(s), e.g., “We want to be together for all eternity.”
Simplistic reasons for the suicide, e.g., “Adolescent dies by suicide because of curfew.”
In addition, the print media can reduce the imitative effect by:
Printing story on inside page
If story must appear on first page, print it below the fold
Avoid the word “suicide” in the headline
Avoid printing a photo of the person who died by suicide
It is important to report a suicide in a straightforward manner so that the suicide does not appear exciting. Reports should not make the suicidal person appear admirable, nor should they seem to approve of the suicide.
To encourage prevention of suicide, it is helpful to:
Present alternatives to suicide, e.g., calling a suicide prevention centre, getting counselling, etc.
Whenever possible, present examples of positive outcomes of people in suicidal crises, such as this story: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/alison-tedford/joshua-beharry-advocate_b_8614862.html.
Provide information on community resources for those who may be suicidal or who know people who are.
Include a list of clues to suicidal behaviour, for example, the warning signs of suicide and what to do.
When someone talks about attempting suicide or brings up concern for a loved one, it is important to take action and seek help quickly.
What are the warning signs?
Major warning signs of suicide spell IS PATH WARM:
I—Ideation: thinking about suicide
S—Substance use: problems with drugs or alcohol
P—Purposelessness: feeling like there is no purpose in life or reason for living
A—Anxiousness: feeling intensely anxious or feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
T—Trapped: feeling trapped or feeling like there is no way out of a situation
H—Hopelessness or Helplessness: feeling no hope for the future, feeling like things will never get better
W—Withdrawal: avoiding family, friends, or activities
A—Anger: feeling unreasonable anger
R—Recklessness: engaging in risky or harmful activities normally avoided
M—Mood change: a significant change in mood
What to do?
Discuss the thoughts and feelings related to suicide openly, frankly, non-judgmentally and in private.
Show honest concern and support the person to get to medical/professional help. Stay connected. Reach out for assistance as being the person in support.
Be consistent – don’t make promises that cannot be kept or are not intended to be kept
Call the local Crisis/ Distress Line (1-888-494-3888) http://www.vicrisis.ca.
When someone talks about attempting suicide or brings up concern for another, it is important to take action and seek help quickly. Speak with your doctor (GP), medical health professional or a therapist/counsellor will be helpful.
Pamela Ana MA & CCC, owns Wellness Matters Counselling and Psychotherapy. Call 250-723-9818.
Editor’s note: The Alberni Valley News does not generally report on suicides, except in certain cases. These cases are then taken into consideration with sensitivity, not sensationalism.