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Media reporting of Chris Cornell’s death

19 May 2017

Media reporting of Chris Cornell’s death

The Mental Health Foundation is deeply saddened to hear of Chris Cornell’s tragic death.

Mr Cornell is beloved around the world and has many fans in New Zealand who are today devastated by his loss.

As with the death of Robin Williams, when we saw a national outpouring of grief, the Mental Health Foundation wants to once again remind the media of the connection between celebrity suicides and copycat deaths.

There is a strong relationship between the way celebrity suicides are reported and an increased risk of suicide.

People in your audience who can particularly relate to Mr Cornell, be it through his music or his age, who are going through a difficult time are particularly at risk. Men Mr Cornell's age are at a disproportionate risk of suicide and we urge you to keep this in mind when reporting on his death.

The likelihood of vulnerable people being affected increases when media coverage is prominent, includes details about possible causes of suicide that simplify a complex issue, profiles individuals in a way that vulnerable people might relate to, includes method and/or location and doesn’t include help-seeking information.

When Robin Williams died, we most often heard from people who wondered how they could ever hope to recover if someone as beloved and successful as Mr Williams could not. Already internationally there are reports of fans and followers of Mr Cornell feeling the same. Fans are reporting that his music has helped him through their most difficult times of life and gave them the hope to carry on, and for some, that hope may fade with Mr Cornell's death.

We hope you will work with us to remind those people that help is available, and where to get it.

You will be aware that because this death occurred overseas then reporting is not restricted by the Coroner's Act. However, the media guidelines still apply and we encourage you to check in for advice and guidance wherever necessary.

You can find the guidelines as well as advice about reporting on suicide on our website.

When reporting on Mr Cornell's death:

• Ensure your story has a suicide prevention angle

• Do not report on the method by which he died

• Bear in mind that his death is painful and complicated, and don't speculate about the reasons that may have led him to take his life

• Keep in mind that vulnerable people are seeking out coverage and reduce the prominence of stories

• Carefully moderate comments.

• Include help-seeking information:

o Lifeline – 0800 543 354

o Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

o Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

o Healthline – 0800 611 116

o Samaritans – 0800 726 666

For more information about suicide prevention can be found at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/suicideprevention.

The suicide reporting guidelines (developed in partnership with New Zealand media) are available here: www.health.org.nz/publication/reporting-suicide-resource-media.


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