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June 26 , 2002

National Recommendations for Suicide Reporting Established

Guidelines for responsible reporting on suicides have been established. The recommendations were developed at a consensus conference including the Office of the Surgeon General, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Association of Suicidology, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center. A concise summary of the recommendations, as well as a more extensive account of the research upon which they were based, can be found at www.afsp.org/education/recommendations/5/index.html.

“Media stories about individual deaths by suicide may be newsworthy and need to be covered, but they also have the potential to do harm inadvertently. Research studies over the past three decades have convincingly demonstrated that certain ways of describing suicide in the news media contribute to what behavioral scientists call "suicide contagion" and the lay public often refers to as copycat suicides.” This statement from the recommendations for responsible reporting is as true of assisted suicides as it is for other suicides. Vulnerable individuals facing serious illnesses can be particularly susceptible to stories glamorizing suicide, assisted or otherwise.

At a recent American Psychiatric Association meeting Doctor Hamilton of Physicians for Compassionate Care received advanced training in discussing issues of suicide with members of the media. The workshop was conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Annenberg Public Policy Center. AFSP has named Doctor Hamilton an expert in discussing these issues. He can be reached at (503) 276-1293.


© Copyright 2002
Physicians for Compassionate Care Educational Foundation