Guyana Foundation Calls on Local Stakeholders to Report Responsibly on Suicide

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The Guyana Foundation has issued a call for the local media and all stakeholders to report responsibly on deaths by suicide. According to a statement from the Foundation, suicide is a pressing public health issue that must be covered responsibly, accurately, and ethically by all stakeholders in order to minimize the effects of suicide contagion.

This is imperative in light of the overwhelming evidence from over 50 international studies which indicate that media reports about suicide have been associated with an increased rate of suicide and suicide attempts where the reporting: 1) explicitly details the suicide method and location; 2) is prominent, repeated, and uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and; 3) sensationalizes or glamorizes the death.

As such, the Foundation is advocating for the local media and all other stakeholders to urgently adopt international best practices in reporting, and public discussions about suicide, in order to avoid influencing behavior negatively and contributing to copy-cat attempts. Moreover, the Foundation has compiled the reporting guidelines that have been released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and various stakeholders around the world, and will make these available to all local media houses.

According to Managing Director of the Guyana Foundation, Anthony Autar, “the media plays a crucial role in influencing behavior, and the stakes are extremely high when it comes to reporting about suicide. It is essential, therefore, that the media supports the work to reduce the suicide rate in Guyana by reporting sensitively and sensibly on the issue.”

“For instance, reporters must avoid sensational pieces, graphic headlines and images, and excessive details about the suicide method used, which are not just unhelpful but can convey the false idea that a particular method offers the quick, easy, painless and certain death that some vulnerable and at risk individuals are seeking. The truth is that most suicide methods are horrifically painful, with uncertain outcomes that can leave one permanently maimed. Moreover, most individuals who attempt to end their lives by suicide later regret it - although in some cases, this occurs too late.”

“Greater care must also be taken to unpack the complex set of interrelated personal, social, psychological, cultural, biological and environmental factors that contribute to suicide in Guyana. Too often, the perceived ‘triggers’ for a suicide - such as the loss of a job or relationship breakup - are oversimplified, with media reports glossing over the complex realities of suicide and its devastating impact on those left behind.”

“We believe that if the local media adopts the WHO’s reporting guidelines on suicide, it can play a key role in changing public misconception, correcting myths, and encouraging vulnerable individuals to seek help.”

The Guyana Foundation endorses the following WHO recommendations for suicide reporting: 

  • Take the opportunity to educate the public about suicide
     
  • Avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, or presents it as a solution to problems
     
  • Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide
     
  • Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide
     
  • Avoid providing detailed information about the site of a completed or attempted suicide
     
  • Word headlines carefully
     
  • Exercise caution in using photographs or video footage
     
  • Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides
     
  • Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide
     
  • Provide information about where to seek help
     
  • Recognize that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories about suicide