‘Don’t Sensationalize or Glamorize Suicide’ Asserts WHO ; Says Media Can Play a Significant Role in Preventing Suicides

WHO scientists assert that journalists can help overcome this taboo by encouraging people to seek help and to speak openly about their distress

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A makeshift memorial for actor Robin Wlliiams is shown outside a home which was used in the filming of the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire", Aug. 15, 2014, in San Francisco. Authorities said Williams committed suicide. (VOA)

Geneva, September 11, 2017 : The World Health Organization reports about 800,000 people commit suicide every year. To mark this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), WHO is stressing the important role the media can play in stopping people from taking their own lives.

Worldwide, every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. The World Health Organization reports for every suicide, 20 others, mainly young people, attempt to take their own lives. WHO says suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds.

It finds most suicides, more than 78 percent, occur in low-and middle-income countries and risk factors include mental disorders, particularly depression and anxiety resulting from alcohol use.

WHO cites growing evidence that the media can play a significant role in preventing suicide by reporting responsibly on these tragedies.

Scientist in WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, Alexandra Fleischmann tells VOA people are often reluctant to talk about suicide because of the stigma attached. She says journalists can help to overcome this taboo by encouraging people to seek help and to speak openly about their distress.

“It is also important to stress that the encouragement to work with the media and not just to talk about the don’ts. Don’t put it in the headlines,” she said. “Don’t put the picture of the person who died. Don’t sensationalize it. Don’t glamorize it.”

WHO warns irresponsible reporting of this sort often can trigger copycat suicides or increase the risk.

The UN health agency reports the most common methods of suicide are self-poisoning with pesticide and firearms. It says many of these deaths could be prevented by restricting access to these means. (VOA)