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'Media and journalists need to be mindful of language when reporting on suicide'

22 February 2021 4:54 PM
Tags:
Media
Sadag
Mental health
Cassey Chambers
suicide reporting
suicide deaths
suicide news

The South African and Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) has emphasised the importance of responsible news reporting of suicide deaths.

In South Africa, there are over 23 suicides per day. This number may be underestimated owing to the stigma involved in suicide.

RELATED: Spike in calls to SA suicide prevention hotline since start of lockdown

Sadag’s operations director, Cassey Chambers, says media organisations must be mindful of the language used when reporting on suicide.

Language matters. For example, Chambers says media houses should stop reporting that a person "committed suicide". The appropriate term would be to report that someone died by suicide.

Saying things like "committed suicide" - suicide is not a crime. It's not a criminal offence in South Africa. So if someone does take their own life, it doesn't mean that they have made a criminal offence.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

Saying things like a "failed attempt" almost sounds like a to-do list or an achievement if you are able to end your life in suicide. An unsuccessful suicide means that someone is still alive and there is still an opportunity to get them help.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

Chambers says journalists need to approach suicide deaths with sensitivity because international research has shown that the media plays a role in fostering suicide contagion.

Suicide contagion refers to the suicide exposure effect on many people who are already vulnerable to suicide.

Chambers spoke to CapeTalk host John Maytham following the latest suspected suicide deaths at Voëlklip near Herolds Bay.

Even if there is one suicide, it's one too many.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

International research shows that there are a lot factors that go towards suicide contagion.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

Through press and media talking about specific details and places can often suggest or open up the opportunity to someone who is vulnerable.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

It's something that we try to be very careful about in how we report on it, how many details we do give.

Cassey Chambers, Operations director - Sadag

If you or someone you love need help, contact Sadag's 24hr helpline on 0800 456 789. For a suicidal emergency contact them on 0800 567 567.

Listen to the discussion on Afternoon Drive with John Maytham:




22 February 2021 4:54 PM
Tags:
Media
Sadag
Mental health
Cassey Chambers
suicide reporting
suicide deaths
suicide news

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