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Daily to avoid use of term ‘commit suicide’ after signing charter

A regional daily has become one of the first media outlets to sign a charter which features a pledge to avoid publishing the phrase “commit suicide.”

The Eastern Daily Press has joined the Mental Health Media Charter, which urges “responsible and stigma-free” reporting of mental health issues.

Practices encouraged by the charter include journalists using the phrases “attempted/completed suicide”, “took/ended their own life” or “killed themselves” instead of “committed suicide”, because that term suggests “criminality and blame”.

It also suggests avoiding usage of generic terms like “mental health issues” when describing terrorists and other violent criminals, urging journalists instead to be specific and possibly add a disclaimer such as “most people with mental health ‘issues’/personality disorders would not commit a crime of this nature, which occur as a result of a rare combination of circumstances” in their story.

The charter, which was launched in The Times Education Supplement on Monday, was created in collaboration with charities Mental Health First Aid England, the Samaritans and Beat.

It is the brainchild of Natasha Devon, a writer and campaigner who earlier this year guest edited a special edition of the EDP as part of its ongoing ‘Mental Health Watch’ campaign.

The EDP's mental health special edition

The EDP’s mental health special edition

EDP editor David Powles said: “said: “For the past two years we have been running a Mental Health Watch campaign and have witnessed first-hand the positive impact our journalism can have in terms of fighting for improved care, raising awareness and making people feel less isolated.

“On the flip side, if the words and pictures we used are done so carelessly or without proper though there is the chance we can have a negative impact.

“Words and pictures do have immense power and it’s important we get them right, which is why I am more than happy for us to sign up to this charter.”

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  • October 12, 2017 at 10:13 am
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    As an aside, no-one’s going to publish the phrase ‘commit suicide’ as it is an active encouragement to do do so.
    I know suicide used to be considered a crime but not since 1961 legally and probably a generation before that too.
    The idea that the phrase ‘took their own life’ somehow sanitizes ‘suicide’ is nonsense. They both mean exactly the same thing so what’s the difference?
    Disclaimer: The writer of this comment probably does have mental health issues but…

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  • October 12, 2017 at 10:33 pm
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    So what euphemism ought we to use to describe what the once respected EDP is slowly doing to itself?

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