Talking about suicide

It’s OK to talk about suicide. However, talking about the details of a suicide (like the method) can put vulnerable people at risk.

Preventing suicide is everyone’s business. Individuals, families, whānau, communities, employers, the media and other organisations all need to work together.

If you’re worried about someone

If you’re worried that someone might be thinking about suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them directly.

If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, acknowledge their pain or what they’ve just said and invite them to keep talking. Let them know there is help available to them. Encourage them to get help and talk to someone about what they are going through.

For more advice, go to:

For family and whānau after a suicide

When someone you know has died by suicide the media may approach you wanting comment or an interview. This may happen immediately following the person’s death or several months or even years later.

If you do receive media attention, it can be hard to decide whether or not to comment.

Comment or No Comment? is a guide to help you work out whether you want to talk with the media and how much you are willing to discuss with them. It can help you make the right decisions for you and your loved ones – including the person who has died.

Making information about a suicide available publicly

To help protect vulnerable people in our communities, there are some restrictions in New Zealand on what can be made public about a suicide or suspected suicide. These are set out in Section 71 of the Coroners Act 2006. The Act was amended in 2016 to clarify the restrictions.

Unless you have an exemption, you can’t make public:

  • the method or suspected method of the death
  • any detail (like the place of death) that might suggest the method or suspected method of the death
  • a description of the death as a suicide before the coroner has released their findings and stated the death was a suicide (although the death can be described as a suspected suicide before then).

‘Making public’ doesn’t just mean news reports and other media – it includes things like public posts on Facebook too.

People may apply to the chief coroner for an exemption to these restrictions.

Suicide reporting in the media

The media can perform an important role in informing and educating the public about suicide. Sharing positive stories is a good way to help – like about how people have overcome suicide thoughts, or about how people and organisations have come together to address suicide risk in their communities.

Reporting on specific suicides

Reporting on a specific suicide should always be considered carefully. In some circumstances reports of an individual’s suicide, particularly the suicide of someone newsworthy, might increase the risk of further suicides among some people. 

People (families and friends) bereaved by suicide can also be at greater risk of suicide or self-harm. One suicide might lead to others in a community (clustering, copycat or contagion suicides).

Guidance for media reporting of suicide

Reporting Suicide: A resource for the media describes issues relating to suicide reporting, suggests areas that journalists should think carefully about, and identifies sources of information that journalists may find useful.

The Mental Health Foundation works with media to safely report on suicide and related issues.

The Mental Health Foundation can be contacted for:

  • advice
  • to answer questions or concerns
  • to provide accurate statistics and research. 

Find out more from the Ministry of Health

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