The media and suicide, part two
A few weeks back, I took some heat for suggesting that the over-the-top and accessive coverage of the suicide death of Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of an Ottawa Senator’s coach, might be a bad thing.
I quoted a position paper from the Canadian Psychiatric Association that suggested that media coverage of suicide might contribute to suicidal ideation among teenagers.
In today’s Ottawa Citizen, officials from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are reporting an alarming spike in cases of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts presenting at its emergency ward. And according to Simon Davidson, CHEO’s chief psychiatrist, the situation got much worse after Daron Richardson’s death. What’s worse is the fact that CHEO only has a total of 19 beds for psychiatric patients, and the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre only has eight beds reserved for teenagers.
They are having trouble coping.
It’s worth repeating what the CPA said in its position paper; it’s worth reminding the media that they must be more responsible in how they report suicides.
Last year, the Canadian Psychiatric Association issued media guidelines for the coverage of suicides because psychiatrists believe that reporting on suicide encourages copycats.
“Simplistic explanations of suicide, repetitive/excessive reporting, sensational/morbid reporting (photographs of deceased, funeral, or place of death), details of suicide method, the idea that suicide is a solution to problems, and only focusing on the deceased’s positive characteristics are generally regarded to promote suicide contagion,” the report states.
The media did its due diligence in terms of offering tips to prevent suicide and providing numbers for community resources, but most local media did not follow most of the guidelines on what to avoid when covering this suicide. The CPA”s paper suggested the media avoid: details of the method (hanging); the word suicide in the headline; photos of the deceased; admiration of the deceased; the idea that suicide is unexplainable; repetitive or excessive coverage; front page coverage; exciting reporting; romanticized reasons for suicide; simplistic reasons for the suicide; and approval of the suicide.