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Journalists warned that reporting suicide details can lead to 'copycat' deaths

The Press Council of Ireland announce new code of practice relating to “excessive detail of the means of suicide”.

Image: Shutterstock

IRISH JOURNALISTS HAVE been given a new requirement for how they go about reporting on suicide cases.

The Press Council of Ireland has inserted a new requirement into its Code of Practice, under Principle 5 (Privacy) which reads:

  • In the reporting of suicide, excessive detail of the means of suicide should be avoided.

Press Council Chairperson Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh said that the new requirement is not meant to inhibit reporting of issues around suicide but is designed to guide the media to be more sensitive and careful on the effects of certain ways of writing or speaking about suicide.

He said at the launch of the 2014 report of the Press Council yesterday that of particular concern was publications giving too much detail on the means of suicide.

The reason for this latter concern is that there is clear evidence of the phenomenon of copycat suicide.In other words, vulnerable people on learning of a particular method of suicide are more likely to use that method to take their own lives.

While this guideline has been part of advice distributed to journalists by organisations such as The Samaritans, this is the first time it has been expressly made a requirement of the Press Council Code.

This means that a publication can be held to account under the Press Council should a member of the public affected directly by such reporting decide to lodge a complaint.

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A total of 99 publications have signed up as full members of The Press Council – these include 15 national newspapers, 54 regional newspapers, 29 magazines and one online-only news publication (this one, TheJournal.ie).

Catherine Brogan, executive director of Samaritans Ireland said that they welcomed the new addition to the Code of Practice and that it recognised the “hugely important role in raising awareness of the issues surrounding suicide”.

What kind of articles in the press had people complaining last year?>

  • Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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