Experts offer media guidelines for suicides coverage


Guidelines for members of the media looking for a correct way of covering news of suicides have been prepared by the Safe Internet League in partnership with the expert community, represented by renowned suicidologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. The document contains 12 practical recommendations on how to avoid the pitfalls in reporting on the subject.

‘Improper media coverage of tragic cases of suicide can dispose greater numbers of people to engage in suicidal behaviour. Our observations show that the more widely a suicide scenario is covered in the news media, the more often it gets replicated in real life: if an individual who took their life was a young person, it makes for a surge in suicides among their peers; if an individual was in a certain occupation, more people in their walk of life commit suicide. This is why we believe it is vital to make members of the media aware of this problem’ explained Head of Moscow Patriarchate’s Crisis Psychology Centre and chief expert at anti-suicide website Mikhail Khasminskiy, one of the experts behind the guidelines. Among other specialists working at the document were Head of Ecological and Societal Problems Unit at Ministry for Public Health’s State Medical Research Centre for Psychiatry and Narcology prof. Boris Polozhiy, Head of Suicide Studies Unit at Clinical and Social Psychiatry 

Department of Moscow State Research Institute of Psychiatry Yevgeniy Lyubov, Head of Moscow State University Educational Psychology and Pedagogics Department Andrey Podolskiy, Head of Psychoneurology Research Institute Geriatric Psychiatry Department Andrey Gnezdilov, Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry Clinical Psychology Department Chair Natalya Sirota, and others.

The guidelines, in particular, speak of the need to only use trustworthy sources of reliable information; to avoid premature speculations as to the reasons behind the suicide, to prevent unnecessary wide coverage suicides and its constant rehashing to prevent so-called copy-cat suicides; and, by the same token, to avoid making hot news out of high-profile (multiple or celebrity suicides) cases; not to discuss suicidal behaviour as a natural reaction to current events; not to present suicide as a common occurrence; to cover the fallout of suicidal behaviour; to respect the sensibilities of the family, etc.

‘Every year 24 000 to 26 000 Russian citizens are taking their lives [according to Rosstat figures — ed.]. 1 500 of these are children. The scale of the problem is truly horrendous. This, and the recent media coverage (I mean the high-profile revelations about pro-suicide social media groups published in a number of newspapers) make us regard these recommendations by the leading experts in this field as highly timely’ said Head of Safe Internet League Denis Davydov.