Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Saving Lives: Columbus Dispatch Series Breaks Silence on the Tragedy of Suicide

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Saving Lives: Columbus Dispatch Series Breaks Silence on the Tragedy of Suicide

Article excerpt

In December, 300 patrons filled a community forum room at Ohio State University to discuss a great tragedy in America that often goes unspoken: suicide. At that forum, a young girl approached Alan Miller, editor of the Columbus Dispatch, and told him, "Thank you for saving my life."

Miller received the same kind of overwhelming feedback from many community members who had read the paper's six part series, "Silent Suffering," (ow.ly/ XhoOH), which documented the stories of people who had taken their own lives and the effects it had on their families and communities. The series included nine stories with photos and six videos.

"It's a topic that touches everyone," Miller said. "It seems like a topic you shouldn't talk about, but why? When it's completely preventable? It's like saying we shouldn't talk about homicide."

Reporters Mike Wagner, Jill Riepenhoff and Lori Kurtzman chronicled each story over the course of nine months. They traveled to surrounding counties collecting data from death records, and compiled a spreadsheet of suicide causes including mental health issues, family histories, and substance abuse dating back 15 years.

Riepenhoff said it was often a battle to obtain the necessary death records and data, and when it came time to speak with people who had been touched by suicide, they feared no one would talk to them. But that wasn't the case at all, Wagner said.

The team reached out to sources through social media, family members or friends, and even cold called some of them. …

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