MCI response to PQ on protocols for reporting suicide cases by media to discourage copycats
Parliament Sitting on 13 September 2021
QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
57. Miss Rachel Ong: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information what are the protocols in place on how specific suicide and attempted suicide cases are to be reported by the media to discourage potential copycat behaviours, especially by the vulnerable youth, and to minimise trauma to the already mentally unstable suicide survivors particularly those in the younger age groups.
Suicide and attempted suicide cases are distressful incidents. Any media reporting should be done sensitively and responsibly to avoid adding to the pain and trauma of the parties involved.
In March this year, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) launched the Beyond the Label media guide as a resource for journalists and media professionals. It was developed in consultation with representatives from the media, social service agencies and persons in recovery. It provides guidelines on the reporting of mental health issues or of incidents involving persons with mental health conditions. Specifically on reporting of suicide cases – for example, it advises against sensational reporting or details about the methods used and circumstances, so as to prevent copycat suicides. It also recommends the inclusion in news reports of mental health helplines and resources available to those facing distress. The media guide has been shared with mainstream media newsrooms, editors and journalists across print, broadcast, and online platforms. It may also be downloaded from NCSS’ website at go.gov.sg/btlmediaguide.
Our mainstream media have largely demonstrated a responsible and sensitive approach in reporting suicide and attempted suicide cases. This has been a long-standing understanding we have had with mainstream media. We urge all media outlets to continue to exercise care and precaution, be sensitive towards not just the individuals being reported on but also their family and friends, as well as avoid causing trauma to those who may be vulnerable. We will continue to engage and work closely with the media to ensure responsible reporting of such cases.