Robin Williams: Mail, Express, Metro, Mirror And Sun Turn Killer Depression Into A Sensational Suicide
SO. How have the British Press reacted to the news that Robin Williams died? At first they lamented the passing of a favourite entertianer. Then Peter Samson told Sun readers that Williams had taken his own life. He stated this with the coroners court was stil investigating.
Mind, the mental health charity providing “advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem – We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding” – issued a media guide:
Robin Williams: Media briefing for journalists
As this story unfolds and more details are revealed about the circumstances surrounding Robin Williams’ death, we are issuing a brief reminder about guidance on media reporting around suicide and in particular a reminder that reporting specific details about the method a person uses can be very triggering for others experiencing suicidal thoughts. We urge you to avoid excessive detail about method of suicide and to report responsibly and sensitively. Evidence shows that copycat suicides can occur as a result of extensive media coverage – please avoid explicit details and sensationalist reporting.
The Samartians has more advice:
Avoid giving too much detail. Care should be taken when giving any detail of a suicide method. While saying someone hanged themselves or took an overdose is acceptable, detail about the type of ligature or type and quantity of tablets used is not…
Avoid any mention of the method in headlines as this inadvertently promotes and perpetuates common methods of suicide…
Vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died, or with the circumstances in which a person took their own life. For example, combining references to life circumstances, say a debt problem or job loss, and descriptions of an easy-to-copy suicide method in the same report, could put at greater risk people who are vulnerable as a result of financial stress.
Never say a method is quick, easy, painless or certain to result in death. Try to avoid portraying anything that is immediate or easy to imitate – especially where the ingredients or tools involved are readily available.
Avoid over-simplification. Approximately 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problem at the time of death. Over-simplification of the causes or perceived ‘triggers’ for a suicide can be misleading and is unlikely to reflect accurately the complexity of suicide. For example, avoid the suggestion that a single incident, such as loss of a job, relationship breakdown or bereavement, was the cause.
Some suicides attract intense media scrutiny. However, where possible, refrain from positioning a story too prominently, for example on a front page or as a lead bulletin, as this may unduly influence vulnerable people…
Take extra care with the selection and placement of imagery linked to a report about suicide. For example, question if a large or prominently placed picture of the person who has died is necessary.
And the Press respsonded thus:
Depression is an illness. It can be a killer. What other illness would get this revolting treatment?