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Background: Associations between sensational news coverage of suicide and increases in suicidal behavior have been well documented. Amid growing concern over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates, it is especially important that news coverage adheres to recommended standards. Method: We analyzed the quality and content of print and online UK news reports of possible COVID-19-related suicides and suicide attempts in the first 4 months of the pandemic (N = 285). Results: The majority of reports made explicit links between suicidal behavior and the COVID-19 pandemic in the headline (65.5%), largely based on statements by family, friends, or acquaintances of the deceased (60%). The impact of the pandemic on suicidal behavior was most often attributed to feelings of isolation (27.4%), poor mental health (14.7%), and entrapment due to government-imposed restrictions (14.4%). Although rarely of poor overall quality, reporting was biased toward young people, frontline staff, and relatively unusual suicides and, to varying degrees, failed to meet recommended standards (e.g., 41.1% did not signpost readers to sources of support). Limitations: This analysis cannot account for the impact of reporting on suicide. Conclusion: Careful attention must be paid to the quality and content of reports, especially as longer-term consequences of the pandemic develop.

Original publication

DOI

10.1027/0227-5910/a000856

Type

Journal article

Journal

Crisis

Publication Date

06/04/2022

Keywords

COVID-19, media, media guidelines, newspaper, reporting, suicide