Protocols for the Reporting of Suicide in NZ
Draft Protocols for the Reporting of Suicide in New Zealand
These draft protocols implicitly acknowledge the legal environment regarding suicide that pertains in New Zealand. The Coroners Act imposes on New Zealand journalists particularly tight restrictions on the reporting of suicide, especially in relation to the manner of death.
They draw on a variety of sources, notably:
The Samaritans (UK)
The PressWise Trust (UK)
National Union of Journalists (Scotland)
Press Council of Australia
The Hunter Institute of Mental Health
Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
American Association of Suicideology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Ministry of Health (NZ)
Reporting suicide requires journalists to exercise fine editorial judgement within the framework of statutory constraints imposed by the Coroners Act 1988.
The media have a recognised duty to inform the public on matters of public interest. Suicide is an issue of legitimate concern to the public and the media can perform an important role in informing and educating the public about this complex issue. Stories can address likely causes; warning signs; trends in suicide rates; recent advances in treatment; and suicide prevention strategies. Discussion may help destigmatise suicide.
Individual suicides may be in inherently newsworthy and need to be reported. In such cases, a responsible approach will consider the potential for news coverage to both contribute to contagion and to communicate positive messages that may save lives.
(Material in brackets is optional amplification)
When reporting suicide, New Zealand media organizations accept the need to:
- Report suicide in a straightforward manner by providing concise and factual information. (that increases public awareness of risk factors, warning signs and possible actions to help a suicidal person)
- Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide. (which usually results from a complex set of circumstances and is seldom the result of a single event)
- Avoid presenting suicide as a method of coping with personal problems.
- Avoid focusing only on the deceased person’s positive characteristics.
- Avoid language, images or presentation that glorifies, trivialises or romanticises suicide or persons who commit suicide. (particularly in media which target or are likely to be available to young people).
- Avoid unnecessary reference to details of method or place of suicide.
- Avoid speculation especially surrounding celebrities.
- Take into account the impact of suicide on families and other survivors. (and follow media codes of practice on privacy, grief and trauma).
- Where appropriate, include community resources available for those at-risk such as help-lines and counselling services.
- Consult reputable sources when seeking comment on suicide.