Why Language Matters: Guidelines for Reporting on Suicide

Why should we avoid using the phrase ‘committed’ when talking about suicide? 

Published15 Jun 2020, 03:38 PM IST
Mind It
1 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs)

On 14 June, 34-year-old Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput died from suicide.

As condolences poured in, a heated but important conversation on mental health and the media's role began.

The actor was 34 and was known for films like Kai Po Che, Kedarnath and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.

FIT spoke to Dr Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychiatrist and Director of Centre for Mental Health, Law and Policy at ILS on how the media should report on suicides.

Some simple guidelines, adopted from the World Health Organisation:

  1. Avoid saying 'committed'; instead say died of suicide
  2. Use people-first language
  3. Don't use sensationalist language
  4. Include helpline numbers in articles
  5. Don't give too many details
  6. Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides
  7. Educate the public about suicide myths
  8. Exercise caution in using images
  9. We should not discuss methods of suicide
  10. Focus on life, not death
  11. De-link suicide and depression or mental illness

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