5. Experts’ Opinions: An Abundance of Caution

When a team led by Western University journalism professor Cliff Lonsdale created Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health in 2014, their goal was to help Canadian journalists navigate a wide range of issues connected with mental health. Use of the guide is intended to decrease stigma surrounding mental-health issues, and improve reporting on the subject.  Today, […]

4. The Harms of Sensationalism and Romanticization

Another element of suicide coverage for the CBC newsroom to consider was whether or not this story would be sensationalizing or romanticizing the topic of suicide in any way. Suicide reporting guides are clear that essentially glorifying these deaths runs the risk that a person in distress might relate and decide to move forward.1“A Quick […]

3. Avoiding the Question, “How.”

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 […]

2. Contagion Theory and a Reporting Taboo

Although Roumeliotis and her team felt strongly that this story was in the public interest, they could not ignore a long-standing taboo on covering topics related to suicide. Cliff Lonsdale, president of the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, says this taboo comes from a long-held theory known as  suicide contagion. According to contagion […]

Advised Otherwise: reporting on subway suicide

When experts cautioned CBC journalists against airing a story on subway suicide, Ioanna Roumeliotis and her team had to decide if the value of the story outweighed the potential risks involved. Case Study by Maya Abramson and Julia Candido December 2021 Introduction   In 2017, 27-year-old Michael Padbury died by suicide after jumping into the […]