Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service commissioned to help fewer people die by suicide across Cheshire and Merseyside

Practical steps will be taken over the next two years by Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service to help prevent suicide following the agreement of a new two-year partnership with Champs Public Health Collaborative.

Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service will deliver advice and support around responsible media reporting and portrayal of suicide as well as education around the risks associated with coverage of suicide to support more responsible approaches.

Samaritans is the leading authority on responsible reporting of suicide and produced its first media guidelines in 1994. The importance of Samaritans’ media guidelines has been widely recognised and they are referenced in the cross-government suicide prevention strategy.

Lorna Fraser, Executive Lead, Media Guidelines, Samaritans, said:

“When people are exposed to certain types of media coverage of suicide, this can increase the risk of imitational suicidal behaviour.

“There is substantial evidence that if too much detail is published about a method of suicide, or if the coverage is widespread and/or sensationalist – for example reports of a celebrity suicide, this can influence suicidal behaviour among those who may be vulnerable.

“This type of media coverage has been linked to increases in suicide rates. There is also evidence that shows stories of hope and recovery can be positive for vulnerable people, these have been linked to falls in suicide rates.”

Much of Samaritans’ media guidelines work goes on behind the scenes through education and support including providing ‘Suicide in the Media’ training to local news outlets covering the key issues relating to suicide reporting to encourage responsible coverage.

Lorna added: “Through our work, we hope that the general public, including vulnerable people, are less likely to be exposed to harmful content through inappropriate coverage of suicide and instead see more hopeful messages around help-seeking behaviour, and positive stories of recovery.”

Ruth du PlessisRuth du Plessis, Director of Public Health for St Helens and Lead Director for Suicide Prevention, said:

“The work of the Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service is a key part of Cheshire and Merseyside’s suicide prevention strategy. It is so important that journalists and media outlets across the subregion are given the right training and advice in relation to reporting suicides.

“Sadly, more than 200 people a year take their own life in Cheshire and Merseyside and for each death by suicide at least ten people are significantly impacted and many more are affected.

“Supporting people who are thinking of suicide to stay alive is vital and we will continue to work towards reaching the ambition of zero suicide for Cheshire and Merseyside through our partnership with Samaritans.”

On behalf of the Collaborative, Samaritans will deliver training sessions for local communications representatives on suicide contagion in relation to media portrayals of suicide – this includes how to engage local media in a responsible approach to covering the topic of suicide locally, what is safe reporting, what to focus on, risk areas and how to avoid harmful coverage.

Samaritans also monitor and analyse local news coverage of suicide, with advice on cases of concern – based on media guidelines criteria, editorial codes and the research evidence base, to give a national overall perspective.

If you are aware of a suicide or incident which is likely to generate lots of news coverage which could be problematic, please get in touch with Samaritans so they can consider appropriate action, such as issuing a confidential media briefing for high profile cases and reminding editors how best to report in a safe way.

You can also help by promoting hopeful stories which remind people that suicide is preventable and encourage those who may be struggling to reach out, which Samaritans can support.

For further advice and information on Samaritans’ Media Advisory Service contact 07483 028725 or email: