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IPSO questions whether journalists should report locations of suicides

NewIPSOThe 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.


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  • September 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Just use a bit of common sense. For example you might say hanged himself at his home without being specific where, or threw herself under a train on the line near Branchester without saying exactly where. It’s called EXPERIENCE!

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  • September 5, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Jesus wept.

    If it’s true, and it was stated in the public inquest, the press should report it.

    The end.

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  • September 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm

    I despair – again. If someone sadly commits suicide then word will get out how, when and where – even if the paper does not report the exact circumstances. Let common sense prevail. To the best of my knowledge of 50 years in papers I have not known one report exactly what happened but have used common sense.

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  • September 5, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    I should have added: Another instance of “nanny state”style interference.

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  • September 6, 2018 at 10:39 am

    There’s an underlying trend here to sanitise inquests to the point of not being able to report them at all.
    It started with coroners not reading out suicide notes. Then they introduced the mealy-mouthed ‘narrative’ verdicts that that usually cloud the issue rather than clarify it.
    A case in point is the death of ex Wales manager Gary Speed. The inquest served up some wishy washy narrative so newspapers can’t refer to his suicide – but members of his family do!
    The idea that Beachy Head won’t be a suicide hotspot if we don’t refer to it that way is ludicrous. Or any tall building.
    In a similar way, people who throw themselves into a river don’t need us to tell them via an inquest report that they could drown – they can work that out for themselves. Or if they overdose they could die. Or if they suspend themselves by the neck by a ligature, death is likely. And the fact they might find a branch in a tree in the New Forest will come as no great revellation.
    This pussy-footing around needs to be nipped in the bud.
    I’m not suggesting unnecessarily graphic details that will shock and upset but just a semblance of the basic facts.
    I seem to recall reading that, ironically this under-reporting of suicides has a positively detrimental effect on people with mental health issues.
    Funding of preventative mental illness counselling has been reduced as the recorded death rate from suicide has fallen!
    If this is true, The Samaritans need to turn their angst to that – for which they are culpable.

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