Background: Each year there are more than 800,000 deaths by suicide across the world, while India alone accounts for one third of female suicides and one fourth of male suicides worldwide. Responsible media reporting of suicide is an important suicide prevention intervention at the population level. There is sufficient evidence to show that the way suicide is reported and portrayed in the media can have a significant impact on individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Recognizing the important role of the media in suicide prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidelines for responsible reporting of suicides by the media. The Press Council of India, in 2019 endorsed WHO's guidelines for media reporting of suicides, however there is no evidence that the Indian media is complying with these guidelines.
Methods: To encourage responsible media reporting, we developed a scorecard to assess and rate media reports on suicide. We reviewed several resource documents that contained guidelines on responsible reporting of suicide. After consulting with a team of experts, we arrived at a scorecard that consisted of 10 positive and 10 negative parameters.
Results: We applied the scorecard to 1318 reports on suicide from 9 English language newspapers, with the highest readership in India between the dates of 1 April to 30 June 2020. For the articles analyzed, the average positive score across all newspapers was 1.32 and the average negative score was 3.31.
Discussion: The scorecard can be a useful tool to assess media reports on suicide and provide metrics for the same. It can facilitate improved monitoring and engagement with media organizations, who can quickly check their own reporting compliance to the WHO guidelines and compare how well they are performing compared to their peers over time.
Keywords: WHO guidelines on responsible reporting of suicide; media and suicide; media reporting of suicide; suicide; suicide prevention.