News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Reporting of high-profile suicides

Reporting of high-profile suicides

The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand (MHF) is reminding media of the importance of using care and caution when covering the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

“We’ve known about the dangers of suicide reporting for decades,” MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says. “It’s up to all of us to listen to the evidence and protect vulnerable people from irresponsible reporting that can lead to people taking their lives.”

While the deaths of high-profile people are newsworthy, certain types of suicide reporting can put people who are already at risk of suicide in greater danger of taking their lives.

Both Ms Spade and Mr Bourdain had devoted fan bases in New Zealand who related to them on a very personal level. People going through a difficult time may hear of the death of someone they admired and wonder “if it never got better for them, why would it get better for me?”

The Foundation is concerned that reporting about Ms Spade and Mr Bourdain has been:
• Extremely prominent, including using the word ‘suicide’ in headlines
• Repetitive (most media outlets have published multiple stories about each death)
• Speculative regarding what may have caused each person to take their life
• Too detailed in terms of method, suicide notes and events after the deaths
• Occasionally flippant or sensationalised

In the past week, members of the public have approached the Foundation to express concern and distress regarding the volume of recent suicide reporting. Individuals have expressed feeling distressed or triggered, concerned for relatives and loved ones, and frustrated that there seems to be endless talk of suicide without any change in our suicide numbers.

“This kind of feedback reminds us that the research around suicide reporting represents more than just numbers on a page – the ‘vulnerable people’ we worry about are very real, and it’s not always easy to know who they are,” Mr Robinson says. “At any one time, one in 20 New Zealanders may be thinking about suicide. These people are important and don’t deserve to be put at risk by hasty or thoughtless reporting of suicide.”

The Foundation encourages media to keep the following in mind when covering high-profile suicides, including those of Ms Spade and Mr Bourdain:

• Examine all stories picked up off the wire or taken from international outlets such as the Daily Mail and remove details that may be distressing to vulnerable people, such as information about method, quotes from suicide notes or uninformed speculation about what may have led to a suicide
• Consider adding a suicide prevention angle to all stories – will your audience go away knowing how to identify someone at risk? How to ask for help? Where to go to get help? for more information
• Consider the prominence and number of stories, and reduce both if possible
• Do not use ‘suicide’ in headlines
• Carefully moderate comments, on your own website and on social media
• Include helplines in all coverage

For more information on suicide reporting, visit:


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis Review: The Minstrel in The Gallery - Sam Hunt's Selected Poems

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Sam Hunt's poetry is its quality of urgent authenticity. Encountering this latest compilation, the reader is immediately struck by its easy accessibility, tonal sincerity, and lack of linguistic pretension ... More>>

A Matter Of Fact: Truth In A Post-Truth World

How do we convincingly explain the difference between good information and misinformation? And conversely, how do we challenge our own pre-conceived notions of what we believe to be true? More>>


Scoop Review Of Books: The Road To Unfreedom

Valerie Morse: Yale professor of history Tim Snyder publishes a stunning account of the mechanisms of contemporary Russian power in US and European politics. In telling this story he presents both startling alarms for our own society and some mechanisms of resistance. More>>


Doing Our Bit: An Insider's Account Of New Zealand Political Campaigning

In 2013, Murdoch Stephens began a campaign to double New Zealand’s refugee quota. Over the next five years he built the campaign into a mainstream national movement – one that contributed to the first growth in New Zealand’s refugee quota in thirty years. More>>

Te Papa: Two Reviews Into Care For Collections

Te Papa will take additional time to consider the best way to deliver its collections care function, including undertaking an independent review into the care of its natural history collections. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland