Communicating on Suicide Is Healthy, but Do It Responsibly
Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Sandy Moses
At every Lane County Suicide Prevention Steering Committee meeting, members discuss how important it is to "break the silence" and talk about suicide. Bringing the subject out in the open - by talking openly, compassionately and responsibly - we are better able to support those who have been affected by suicide and also help to prevent more deaths by suicide in the future.
However, just how we inform and engage community members - including policymakers, educators, law enforcement, parents, families and neighbors - can be challenging.
Research tells us that asking people directly if they are thinking about suicide is an important first step in helping them get the support they need. However, it is also a fact that the way in which we report a suicide can have a negative impact rather than a helpful one.
Nationally recognized media guidelines for safe reporting on suicide state that "the way suicide is reported in the media can contribute to additional suicides and suicide attempts." Research has indicated that it is best to avoid detailed descriptions of the suicide, including specifics of the method used, since this can increase the risk of a vulnerable person imitating the act.
Knowing the research and having communicated this with The Register-Guard, it was indeed unfortunate that in a March 20 article intended to inform and alert the public about a particular method used in Nick Klonoski's death by suicide, The Register-Guard chose to include graphic detail that is likely to do more harm than good. In this case, while the Lane County Suicide Prevention Steering Committee applauds the desire to create legislation to outlaw sale of this particular method to complete suicide, we oppose including explicit information, as it is unnecessary and potentially unethical.
National media guidelines recommend reporting the likely causes of suicide, its warning signs, available resources and recent treatment advances. Such reporting in this case would have been much more beneficial.
Suicide is a complex behavior. We cannot prevent every death by suicide, but we can reduce the risk. …