Sunday, July 29, 2018

“No good way to prevent suicide by train, experts concede”, front page headline on Sunday in The Palm Beach Post.

And buried in the paper on page A15 were the steps to help people considering suicide. Later in this blog post is more information, what every editor and reporter needs to know:

According to numerous research studies, prominent media stories about suicide are associated with a significant increase in suicide attempts within the media outlet’s coverage area.

Please Note: All news reports about suicide must prominently display what is called “The Lifeline”.

Reading the article in the Post, front page news on Sunday, July 29th, don’t recall any reference to a thing called “suicide contagion” and the important role the press and media plays in reporting about suicide. Suicide is not you’re typical news reporting. It’s treated much different, or should be. For example, a blaring news report on a Sunday can have very real consequences for families and friends on Monday–Saturday.

Aside from the 1st Amendment, as you’ll read about below, a “careful and deliberate moral reasoning needs to take place” when reporting about the topic of suicide. It’s certainly worth questioning the editorial decision to make suicide the front page blaring news on a Sunday. Officials and professionals concerned with public safety and rail safety may consider it reckless.

Here is an excerpt from the Post, the second paragraph:

“Experts say there’s no easy fix – and they caution that the very act of debating and trying to prevent the practice might bring the unintended effect of increasing the number of people using trains to deliberately end their lives.” [emphasis added]

Once again, reporting news about suicide is much different than any other reporting. Note that buried on page A15 was this information called “The Lifeline”:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-8255.

Please continue reading for more very important information.

If you believe someone is attempting suicide
DO NOT DELAY! Call 911 immediately.

About the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

“We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”

The excerpt below is from “Media Guidelines
For Suicide Reporting

Are you a reporter who is working on a story related to suicide? If so, you may want to be aware of a phenomenon called “media-related suicide contagion.” [emphasis added]
     According to numerous research studies, prominent media stories about suicide are associated with a significant increase in suicide attempts within the media outlet’s coverage area. Adolescents and young adults seem to be especially susceptible to suicide contagion.

Another resource for anyone considering suicide or if you think someone is considering suicide is the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition. They are “A coalition of Floridians for the elimination of suicide in our communities.”

Understand that the First Amendment and news reporting takes on an entirely different perspective when it comes to suicide. It’s long been recognized that news about suicide needs to be handled delicately and with compassion and it’s always a ‘best practice’ to include a lifeline in a news or media report! Someone out there may be watching or reading the news and considering suicide at that moment. A ‘lifeline’ in your news report may be the thing that saves their life.

Those ‘best practices for professionals’ include reporters and journalists in the press and news media:

“SPJ’s [Society of Professional Journalists] Code of Ethics tells journalists that they have an obligation to report the truth. They also have an obligation in minimizing the harm that’s done in the pursuit of that truth.
     When it comes to suicides, a careful and deliberate moral reasoning needs to take place aside from the First Amendment right to report. Families don’t care about your rights when they are grieving.
     That’s why compassionate and responsible journalism is necessary and why cautious deliberation is needed.”

—Quote. Kevin Z. Smith, Deputy Director, The Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.

I hope this information is helpful for everyone in the press and news media.