Larry Werner, the director of news for ECM Publishers, has opened a discussion that is lately occurring in more newspapers and some news organizations: When is it OK to mention “suicide” ?
Many news organizations have policies against mentioning suicides, in the belief that it only encourages more people to take their own lives. That’s an oversimplification, however, of recommendations which don’t call for muzzling talk of suicide, but not sensationalizing or romanticizing it. That’s different from keeping it a secret.
In his column today, Mr. Werner relays his recent encounter with a suicide attempt in Anoka, and the reaction to the story by a Forest Lake couple whose daughter took her own life.
“We want to get it out there. It’s not going away. It needs to be talked about and addressed,” the mother said.
At a Minnesota Newspaper Association workshop a few years ago, we discussed how we cover sensitive subjects, including suicide. Most of us in that workshop acknowledged we avoid using the word in our papers. One newspaper editor in that room, whose son had died from suicide, said avoiding the subjects perpetuates the idea that there’s a stigma associated with such a death. Being specific about suicide, like mentioning cancer or diabetes in obituaries, will provoke discussions that could shed light on possible remedies and methods of prevention.
It’s a good read.