Media guidelines on the reporting of suicide

Crisis. 2006;27(2):82-7. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.27.2.82.


There is strong evidence for the existence of the Werther effect, or the phenomenon of an observer copying suicidal behavior he or she has seen modelled in the media. As a consequence, a number of countries have developed guidelines that promote responsible reporting of suicide. Using nine such guidelines as examples, this paper demonstrates that they tend to have similar content (emphasizing, for example, that suicide should not be glamorized or sensationalized and that explicit descriptions should be avoided, and stressing the importance of providing information about help services), but differ in the way in which they have been developed (e.g., the extent to which media professionals have been involved) and implemented (e.g., whether their "roll-out" has involved a considered dissemination strategy). The paper also reviews the evidence from evaluations of media guidelines, and concludes that it is too limited to determine whether the guidelines have had an impact on the behavior of media professionals or on completed and attempted suicide rates. It makes recommendations for further evaluative work, and suggests that the lessons from well-designed evaluations should be shared.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Mass Media*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention*