There has historically been little guidance for how to tell stories about suicide responsibly, but most guidelines are clear on one aspect: journalists should avoid describing how people cause their own deaths.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) released updated guidelines in 2017 for suicide reporting. One of its main points: “reports should generally avoid details of suicide methods, especially when unusual or novel methods are involved.”1Sinyor, Mark et al., “Media Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide: 2017 Update of the Canadian Psychiatric Association Policy Paper,” Canadian Psychiatric Association, 2017. PDF File. https://www.cpa-apc.org/wp-content/uploads/Media-Guidelines-Suicide-Reporting-EN-2018.pdf
Someone who is already suicidal may be more likely to make the attempt if they read something that describes how it’s been done.
The CBC team knew that a story about suicide on the TTC would not be able to avoid the subject of methods. But perhaps they could find a middle ground. “You can’t avoid it but you don’t have to spell it out,” Roumeliotis said. Although the methods would necessarily be implied, she did not plan to describe them in graphic detail.
However, Sinyor says that there is the potential that talking about subway suicide could be dangerous no matter how you tell the story. His perspective is that journalists need to ask themselves if the story is worth it in a case like this.
Watch Sinyor talk about how reporting methods may be dangerous:
For the CBC team, it was clear that, because the methods of suicide are obvious in this case, airing any piece on subway suicide would go against the advice of some mental health experts.
Next: 4. The Harms of Sensationalism and Romanticization
|￪1||Sinyor, Mark et al., “Media Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide: 2017 Update of the Canadian Psychiatric Association Policy Paper,” Canadian Psychiatric Association, 2017. PDF File. https://www.cpa-apc.org/wp-content/uploads/Media-Guidelines-Suicide-Reporting-EN-2018.pdf|