Hastings newspaper changes policy on suicide coverage

The pleas of some mental health professionals in Minnesota to change the way newspapers and news organizations cover suicides has apparently not fallen on deaf ears.

Today, the Hastings Star Gazette announced a change in its policy of not covering suicides that happen in private, while reporting on those that happen in public. The paper acknowledged the mostly discredited assertion that covering suicides encourages more suicides (the Star Tribune maintains this policy), which is mostly an incorrect interpretation of what experts say. “Glorifying” suicides risks leads to more suicides. Details. Details.

That was short-sighted on our part. Essentially, we were sweeping the problem under the rug.

This week we changed that policy. We will write about mental health issues in the police report – again, the issues are not criminal, but police are often called to help mediate the situations and in some cases they transport the affected person for evaluation. It’s a significant use of police resources, and the public ought to know how their department is spending its time.

Please know we will not be publishing the names of those who are affected. Nor will we publish addresses.

The greater good in this, we hope, is that by telling you about these instances you’ll see how prevalent it is. You will have greater awareness about the ongoing struggles taking place in your community. Once you are armed with that information, we hope you’ll do what you can to help your fellow residents.

Our guess is that if the people who need this care feel like they are the only ones with the problem, they could feel ashamed. They may refuse to be treated. They could become even more isolated, and that would likely just exacerbate the problem.

  • ce

    Kudos to them. It’s long past time we stopped sweeping this under the rug.

  • bj

    Wow. I wonder What prompted the change?