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          Media Guidelines for Dealing with Suicide

          March 12, 2010

          Dr. Phil says there is a need to exercise sensitivity when discussing death by suicide so as not to glamorize the act or give rise to copycats. With the recent spate of teens taking their own lives, learn how to have a candid but effective discussion.


          • No glamorization of the teens who are lost.
          • No focus on celebrity suicide, which can glamorize it.
          • DON’T use terms such as “committed suicide,” “successful suicide” or “unsuccessful or failed attempt.” Instead, use “died by suicide” or “non-fatal attempt.”
          • DO emphasize that suicide is a symptom of mental illness that is curable.
          • DON’T oversimplify the act as being “inexplicable” by a high-functioning person who did something out of the blue, as teens may identify with the person.
          • DON’T characterize the act as being in reaction to an isolated event by a high-functioning person, as 90-plus percent have either a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness.
          • Emphasize alternative coping strategies.
          • DON’T focus too much on family’s pain and agony, so as not to glamorize the loss or exemplify it for vengeance.
          • DON’T present suicide as a reasonable way of problem solving.
          • NO sensationalistic footage of the scene (gravesite, memorial, suicide methods).
          • NO names. Recognize the privacy of the grieving families.
          • NO use of word “suicide” in headlines and promos due to its suggestive nature to vulnerable/unstable kids.
          • DON’T use adolescents to describe reactions and drama.
          • DO always include a referral phone number and information about local crisis intervention services.
          • DO emphasize prevention.
          • DO limit the prominence, length and number of stories about a particular suicide.
          • DO list warning signs, risk and protective factors of suicide.
          • DO get community leaders and celebrities to label act as not acceptable.

          If a friend or loved one is talking about or planning to take his or her life, reach out for help now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255).


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