News Coverage of Suicidal Behavior in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
Marzano L., Fraser L., Scally M., Farley S., Hawton K.
BACKGROUND: Media reporting of suicide has been associated with imitative acts. Internationally, this has led to the development of guidelines to promote responsible reporting of suicide. AIMS: To examine the nature and quality of news coverage of suicidal behavior in the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (ROI). METHOD: UK and ROI press clippings relating to suicide over 12 months (N = 8,101) were coded for content and assessed for quality against existing guidelines. We examined variability in relation to key characteristics (e.g., type of publication) and compared newspaper portrayal of suicide against official statistics. RESULTS: Reports were biased toward young, female, and relatively unusual suicides (including those involving a celebrity, more than one individual, and violent methods). Almost a third of reports had inappropriate headlines, but only a minority were of poor overall quality, and editors appear to be responsive to feedback. There was considerable variability in the quality of reports for different suicide methods. LIMITATIONS: This work cannot account for the impact of reporting on suicidal behavior. The speed of change in media trends also limits its conclusions. CONCLUSION: Our findings underscore the need for sustained efforts to promote responsible reporting of suicide.