It has long been known that certain groups are at increased risk for suicide. One of the known risk factors is seeing or reading about someone who commits suicide. Yesterday, Fox News accidentally showed a suicide during a live broadcast that went awry. The network anchor, Shepherd Smith, had been following a live car chase when suddenly the car stopped and the man began running away. Despite a 10 second delay, the producers were unable to cut away on time, and the man’s suicide was shown live. Mr. Smith was clearly upset, and gave a lengthy apology to viewers.
While this was not a deliberately sensationalized moment, the live broadcast was potentially traumatic for anyone viewing. And according to the single-topic blog Reporting on Suicide, “[T]he way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking.”
Important Points for Covering Suicide:
- More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage.
- Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/
graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.
- Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths which can
encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.
Here are more tips on reporting suicide, from a free .pdf available for download from the site (click to enlarge):