Suicide Prevention

How English-speaking media guidelines on self-harm and suicide reporting could help to prevent suicide abroad

By Katerina Kavalidou.

The way that suicidal behaviours and suicide are presented in the media, attracts a lot of research interest, either due to the negative effect related to the increase of suicidal behaviours or the positive effect of promoting help-seeking. One of the main reasons that media professionals need to adhere to guidelines is mainly the impact of specific types of reporting in so-called ‘copy-cat’ suicides. Guidelines urge media professionals to avoid stigmatising language and detailed descriptions of a suicide or suicide attempt, together with the provision of information on where, when and how someone can seek help.

Regardless of the media type (television, radio, newspapers, websites, blogs, etc.), providing contact information for crisis centres and helplines is a priority. Indeed, the use of suicide helplines is an important component of suicide prevention, which is highlighted in national strategies. Despite that no direct association can be made between the impact of crisis hotlines and a decrease of suicide deaths, the use of local hotlines within suicide prevention programs and a decrease in suicide rates in the same area have been reported.

Lately, English media sites have started to include details of suicide helplines in other English-speaking countries. Few provide additional details for international crisis centres and helplines, for viewers residing in non-English speaking countries. Further, when English speaking media report suicide-related behaviours which have occurred in non-English speaking countries, they rarely provide help-related resources specific to the country where the suicidal behaviours has taken place.

On the 10th of September each year, international communities work together in order to prevent suicide and promote suicide awareness worldwide. For this year, 2018, the message promoted across the world is the core message of a suicide prevention strategy: “Working together to prevent suicide”. Many countries do not have a national suicide prevention strategy, despite the World Health Organisation highlighting their role in showing a country’s clear commitment to suicide prevention. Taking into account this lack of national suicide prevention policies in many countries and the increasing accessibility to internet resources worldwide, one possible “working together” initiative for English speaking media professionals, would be to further adjust the resources of crisis lines/centres based on the origin of their suicide-related story. This may help people who are in a suicidal crisis find appropriate support or access life-saving information. With more than 75% of the global suicide rate coming from low and middle income countries, many of whom will speak English as a second language, through providing local help-seeking information when referring to suicidal-related behaviour taking place in non-English countries, the media could facilitate suicide prevention.


If you are in immediate need of support, Samaritans are there to listen 24/7: 116 123 or if you are in Scotland, you can also contact Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87

For support and information in other countries please check for crisis centres and helplines at

*Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash.

Katerina KavalidouMMSc, PhD (@KKavalidou) is a Psychologist with postgraduate studies on mental health promotion and suicide prevention – Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory, University of Glasgow (

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