The relationship between health professionals working in suicide prevention and media organisations generally has not been harmonious. Health professionals, concerned that the irresponsible reporting of suicide may lead to contagion or copycat behaviours, wish to see reporting guidelines for the media.
Media professionals, however, are strongly resistant to potential or actual restrictions on their freedom of expression and dispute any presumption that non-disclosure is in the best interests of society.
This study aimed to scope the awareness of media professionals about suicide reporting guidelines developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 1998 and 1999; to identify the media’s issues and concerns about the use of guidelines; and to identify a means of addressing those concerns.
The research comprised a limited literature review, document analysis and semistructured interviews with senior media professionals.
The key findings are:
- The guidelines developed by the Ministry of Health have been largely ignored by the news media.
- Senior media professionals strongly oppose restrictions on suicide reporting and believe the Coroners Act 1988 is unduly restrictive.
- The development of suicide reporting guidelines acceptable to the news media would require a process of extensive consultation between health professionals and senior media professionals.