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Former editor launches bid to combat irresponsible suicide reporting

Keith PerchA former regional daily editor has joined forces with a charity and the press watchdog to help combat the irresponsible reporting of suicide.

Keith Perch, left, now head of journalism at the University of Derby, has teamed up with The Samaritans and the Independent Press Standards Organisation to raise awareness about issues surrounding coverage of such tragedies.

Keith, a former editor of the Derby Telegraph, Leicester Mercury and South Wales Echo, is now set to host a conference at the university which is aimed at regional journalists.

Around 30 regional newspaper editors have signed up to attend the workshop, which will feature presentations by Lorna Fraser, media adviser at The Samaritans, and Professor David Gunnell, from the University of Bristol.

In a blog post about the conference, Keith wrote: “There is compelling evidence that irresponsible reporting of suicides by media leads to extra deaths. Get it wrong and people die.

“When I was editor of regional newspapers, I don’t think I knew this. I was vaguely aware of evidence that linked the reporting of suicide to imitative deaths in a cluster of suicides in South Wales.

“However, there is now no doubt and there is no excuse for not knowing. The increasing evidence has led to changes in the Editors’ Code of Practice which now explicitly states that'”to prevent simulative acts, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used’.

“The Samaritans have worked tirelessly in recent years to build a detailed set of guidelines for reporters on how best to cover suicide. They also offer a full media advisory service, which includes both media training and pre-publication advice. However, they find it difficult to get their message out to reporters working in local and regional media.”

The conference is open to journalists working for newspapers, or working as freelances, while academics who teach student journalists are also welcome.

It will be held at the University of Derby’s main Kedleston Road campus from 11am on Monday 24 April, and is set to let around 90 minutes – with a free lunch included. To sign up or find out more, click here.


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  • April 13, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Good luck with getting some newspapers onside.

    It was policy back in the 1970s to never report attempted suicides but in recent years my old daily website has splurged on case after case of people jumping into the river. These would go on for days, weeks, with new people doing it and the associated unsympathetic diatribes from readers in the comments section.

    I emailed them quite often suggesting they stopped reporting these river rescues but they didn’t take the hint.

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  • April 13, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    ex-JP sub – I think the same sentiments are the reasons why we were encouraged once-upon-a-time not to report bomb hoaxes.

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  • April 13, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    The Leeds NUJ branch worked with those affected and the city’s excellent suicide prevention initiative two years ago to produce guidance on covering suicide that should be helpful.

    The four A4 sides cover many of the dilemmas facing journalists as they try to cope with increasing workloads and shorter (social media) deadlines as well as the passions of the bereaved and the nuances of the law. They were given the once-over by journalists working in radio, television, print and new media as well as health PRs and those producing media material.

    Download the “Covering Suicide” notes free now … from

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  • April 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    No-one will argue against the responsible reporting of suicides but there is a much more important aspect to cases of suicide these days.
    It seems that unless someone leaves a note saying they intended to kill themselves and no, it wasn’t a cry for help, coroners will invariably find a way of not recording a suicide verdict.
    I think this is possibly to avoid the stigma for the families involved, or insurance pay-outs perhaps, but whatever reason it is, it is distorting the suicide rates in Britain.
    Clouding the picture on suicides has the effect of reducing the amount of money given to mental health issues which must lead to more people in despair and thinking about topping themselves…
    I would call it the irresponsible non-reporting of suicides by coroners.

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  • April 18, 2017 at 11:35 am

    My local JP weekly does not report nearly as many inquests as it used to. In the days when I covered them I remember a case where a prominent local woman hanged herself and no suicide verdict was recorded. On the other hand they often have to decide if a “cry for help” has gone tragically wrong and who can blame them for taking a kinder option.

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