The press watchdog has questioned whether journalists should reveal where people have taken their own lives if the location could be seen as key to the method of suicide.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation is seeking views on whether reporting someone’s place of death could constitute part of their method of sucide, something which journalists are told not to report on “in excessive detail” under Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Mental health charity Samaritans recommends that journalists shouldn’t describe places as “suicide hotspots” because it can encourage vulnerable people to travel to that location with the intention of taking their life.
Last week, IPSO’s head of standards Charlotte Urwin attended a regular meeting of government agencies, local charities and mental health providers where they discuss steps they take to reduce the number of suicide attempts at a “well-known spot” in the UK.
In a report on her findings from the meeting, Charlotte wrote: “Some places where people go to take their own lives become strongly associated with suicide, which can encourage more people to travel to that location to end their lives.”
She added: “At the meeting, we talked about whether journalists should specify the location where someone has gone to take their life, if that location is a key part of that person’s suicide. Could the details of a location be considered part of a method of suicide? I’d be interested in hearing journalists’ thoughts on this point.
“Deaths are public matters and the death of an individual is a matter of public record and their death may affect a community as well as those who knew the individual personally. Journalists have a basic right to report the fact of a person’s death, even if surviving family members would prefer for there to be no reporting and regard the death as private.
“There is a definite public interest in the reporting of suicide: responsible reporting can improve public understanding of the issue and encourage vulnerable people to seek help and to speak about suicidal feelings.
“Ultimately, we can only reduce the numbers of suicides each year if we continue to talk about the issue. Through information, training and guidance, IPSO can help journalists to cover this important topic without putting vulnerable people at risk.”
The discussion comes after Samaritans warned earlier this year that journalists were “romanticising” youth suicide by using social media tributes in stories.
Laura Fraser, executive lead of Samaritans’ media advisory service, said research by the charity had also found youth suicides were frequently reported in a “more sensational way” than others.
Its data found that 33pc of all stories about suicide cover the deaths of people under 25, despite people in that age bracket accounting for 11pc of all suicide victims.