I just found this letter to the editor originally published in the Centre Daily. I like to highlight some of the few letters that address the media's missed opportunities to educate the public about suicide.
Reporting on suicide
MY HEART goes out to the family, friends and community regarding the tragic death of Shane Halligan.
But the coverage misses a real opportunity to inform the public about suicide and ways to prevent it. Research shows that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying (although not always diagnosed) psychiatric illness at the time of their death.
It is understandable that stories about individual suicides are newsworthy to the local community and need to be covered. In response, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, along with the Annenberg Public Policy Center have developed recommendations to encourage responsible, accurate and informative reporting.
These reports should explain the real causes of suicide, list suicide warning signs, include expert opinions and where someone can go for help if they are feeling depressed or suicidal. Reports should avoid sensationalizing or glamorizing the suicide or victim. The recommendations also suggest that descriptions and pictures of grieving relatives and the community may encourage other vulnerable youth to seek attention in the same manner.
For more information about the recommendations please visit www.afsp.org/media.
Paula Clayton, Medical Director
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
New York, N.Y.