Resources - Resources for Media Professionals

Posted March 28, 2024

Media Recommendations for Portrayals of Suicide and Suicide Prevention

Media reporting plays a crucial role in suicide prevention. There is strong evidence that sensationalist portrayals of suicide, particularly the reporting of suicide by celebrities, and the reporting of suicide methods, are related to subsequent increases in suicides, the Werther effect. More recent research suggests that a similar phenomenon exists for fictional / entertainment media portrayals. Media guidelines for safe portrayals of suicide are available to mitigate the risk associated with portraying suicide. In Austria, these guidelines, first implemented in 1987, have resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of the reporting, and a significant reduction in suicides.

Not all media reporting, however, does harm. Portraying individuals with lived experience who have managed to cope with suicidal thoughts and feelings, are associated with decreases in suicides subsequently, the Papageno effect.

Journalists and media professionals considering the reporting about suicide prevention are strongly encouraged to focus on stories of hope and recovery, and use media guidelines for risk mitigation when it comes to the reporting of suicide.

International Media Guidelines for the Reporting of Suicide (WHO)

Thomas Niederkrotenthaler has co-led the development of the most recent WHO/IASP media guidelines for the reporting of suicide: Preventing Suicide—A Resource for Media Professionals (World Health Organization, 2017)

National Austrian Media Guidelines for the Portrayals of Suicide

Leitfaden zur Berichterstattung über Suizid

(German translation of the English document, International Association for Suicide Prevention, 2020).

Guidelines for Entertainment Media

Preventing Suicide—A Resource for Filmmakers and Others Working on Stage and Screen (World Health Organization, 2019)