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Safe Suicide Reporting Matters

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How we talk, write and report on suicide matters and it is important to know how to do so responsibly. For someone already considering suicide, it’s possible to change their thoughts into action by exposing them to detailed suicide-related content, including graphic depictions or explanations of the death or revealing the method used. The high-profile tragedies of Kate Spade’s death last year and two days later the death of Anthony Bourdain using the same method are an unfortunate example of this.

Help Prevent More Deaths By Suicide

The recent media reporting on TV and in the media reporting of the tragic death of two 12-year-old Japanese students yesterday is placing vulnerable young people at risk all over the country. Seeing sensationalized headlines and reporting about a young person who ended their life can make other young people who are already struggling and being bullied, believe that they can do it, too. That “it’s okay.” That “it’s easy.” And not only that but learning the method of how a person died by suicide shows how to do it—what “works.”

How to talk about suicide safely

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed clear guidelines for professionals working in the media as to how to cover the topic of suicide safely. The main message of any discussion regarding suicide should be to encourage people to get help when they need it and to help them locate that support by including local and national hotline numbers or other crisis resources. Sadly none of the TV or media coverage I have seen concerning the two teenagers has included this vital information.

Additionally, while all the articles have focused on the students being bullied, none of them have mentioned mental health issues such as depression and the link between the two. Research is clear that there is never a single reason why a person dies by suicide. For many young people, they don’t understand what a mental health problem is, they feel trapped in their situation and feel it is hopeless, that there is no escape or way out and can come to believe that the only way to escape the bullying is to not exist anymore. It is so important for anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide to know there is help, they are not alone, if they are being bullied they have rights and with support, they will get through this.

In Japan, you can reach out to TELL Lifeline every day of the year from 9 am – 11 pm 03-5774-0992  or via chat on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evenings from 10.30 pm to 02.00 am at www.telljp.com. If you prefer to speak in Japanese, Inochi no Denwa has a list of numbers across the country who are there to help.