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The Responsible Reporting of Suicide in Print Journalism



Prominently placed press reports of suicide have the ability to produce imitation among vulnerable individuals. This led to the release of consensus recommendations supporting the responsible news reporting of suicide in August 2001. This article summarizes research supporting the recommendations and indicates ways that reporters can cover suicide without encouraging imitation. Content analysis of the New York Times for 1990, 1995, and 1999 indicates that although the suicide rate did not increase during this period, the prominence of suicide reporting did. In addition, articles did not focus on treatable preexisting conditions (e.g., depression) that play a role in up to 90% of self-inflicted death. Interviews with 57 journalists indicated that they were unaware that their reporting could produce suicide imitation. Health professionals can aid journalists by underscoring the effectiveness of treatments for depression and encouraging reporters to include sources of help for the suicidal.