Leading figures call on the media to take lead on how suicide is talked about

Leading figures have called on the media to lead the way in changing how suicide is talked about.

More than 130 broadcasters, actors, politicians, and writers have signed a letter to editors praising the positive changes in the way suicide has been covered in the media in recent years, but have highlighted that there is still a way to go.

The letter, signed by people including broadcasters Stephen Fry, Fearne Cotton, and Zoe Ball, urges news outlets to avoid speculation about the causes of suicide.

“We often read speculation about the cause of suicide, linking a death to a previous event such as the loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship or bullying.

“It is impossible to say with any certainty why someone takes their own life,” the letter says.

The letter, which has been backed by cross-party MPs, as well as Samaritans and Mind, coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday.

Other signatories of the letter include comedian David Baddiel, presenter Lorraine Kelly, actor David Harewood, musician Will Young, filmmaker Richard Curtis and authors Kate Mosse and Jojo Moyes.

The letter says: “We would strongly encourage you to include the contact details for suicide prevention organisations in any reports or articles where suicide is a significant element of the story.

“Thank you to those of you who already do this.

“There is a huge job to be done to educate the public: to tackle taboos; to break down stereotypes; to report and comment on suicide in a responsible manner. We hope that you will play your part.”

The letter was put together by mental health campaigners Bryony Gordon and MP Luciana Berger.

Ms Gordon said: “As a journalist I have seen for myself the positive impact that the media can have on the nation’s mental health.

“Words are powerful, and we can all make a difference through small changes.”

Ms Berger said: “The evidence is that responsible commentary and news reporting of suicide can help prevent these types of deaths in the future.

“No suicide is inevitable. We are calling on everyone involved in the creation of news and comment to help stop suicide, by transforming the language and images they choose.

“In particular, we want to see an end to the phrase ‘commit suicide’ which belongs to a bygone era, and needs to fall swiftly into disuse.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Isabel Infantes / PA Wire.