Ministry of Health recognises World Suicide Prevention Day

News article

08 September 2023

As we take time to recognise World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday and think about people and whānau who have been impacted by suicide or self-harm, it is a timely opportunity to take stock of how we communicate about suicide in public fora.

The Suicide Prevention Office, based in Manatū Hauora, provides national leadership for suicide prevention and the implementation of He Tapu te Oranga o ia tangata, the Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Suicide Prevention Office recommends that everyone, especially those with a broad reach or public presence (such as media outlets), takes care in reporting about suicide and self-harm. Reports of methods and/or locations that imply method, sensational headlines and excessive reporting can cause the most harm. Remember that whatever you post or share may be seen widely and can impact on people.

Language is important. Avoid using phrases that make it sound like suicide is a crime, like ‘commit suicide’, instead use ‘died by suicide’. It is also important to avoid language that may romanticise or trivialise a death and try not to oversimplify or speculate about reasons of suicide. Remember to consider how people’s loved ones might feel.

There are good guidelines for responsible reporting to help mitigate the harmful effects of media reports. The Suicide Prevention Office strongly encourages those involved in reporting on or discussing suicide to use and promote these guidelines.

Every story should include a suicide prevention message and not rely solely on helplines. A growing body of evidence also highlights that media reports of people overcoming suicidal crises may lower suicide rates. The aim of reporting should be to reduce stigma, engender hope and help-seeking, and provide accurate information.

Preventing suicide requires an all-of-society response, which includes government agencies, community, whānau, hapū, iwi, media outlets as well as anyone who runs a blog, broadcasts a podcast, or is otherwise active on social media.

Reducing exposure to violence of all types, alcohol-related harm, stand-downs or exclusion from school, and harmful communication about self-harm and suicide – all contribute to reducing suicide rates.

Te Ao Māori is central to suicide prevention; cultural practices and values that are whānau-based and underpinned by a Māori worldview are essential.

A wide range of work is underway to help prevent suicide, and the current provisional data appears promising, but we need to caution that a sustained reduction over a much longer period of time is needed to have confidence in real change. We must continue our collective efforts to reduce the burden of suicide.

The Suicide Prevention Office will keep working hard alongside community and government partners across Aotearoa to drive suicide prevention efforts.

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