Dunne releases media suicide reporting guidelines

  • Peter Dunne

New guidelines for journalists reporting on suicides have been developed with the media and not imposed on them, and that should be key to their success, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says.

“Media buy-in for such guidelines is crucial. This is the first time that media organisations have agreed to use a single, consistent set of guidelines.

“The fact that these have not been imposed from outside augurs well for their success,” Mr Dunne said in launching the resource today.

“We have deliberately steered away from a prescriptive, imposed-from-outside approach to get something that the media will work with,” he said, adding that he would like to see media outlets publishing the guidelines on their own websites.

“Media have agreed to these guidelines and they owe it to their readers, listeners and viewers to now transparently demonstrate their commitment.”

The guidelines have come out of roundtable meetings during this year chaired by Mr Dunne and involving the Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean, senior media representatives, mental health professionals, organisations working in suicide prevention, and government agencies.

“The end result is a resource that all media can use to ensure a level of consistency and informed professionalism in how they approach reporting the very sensitive and complex issue of suicide.

“The guidelines are straightforward, accessible and designed to be useful to journalists working under tight deadline pressures,” Mr Dunne said.

He said he was pleased with the open and constructive debate from all quarters throughout the process.

‘There is a myth that we should not talk about suicide; that it is too sensitive, painful, difficult or dangerous to do so.

“However, people need to know that it is okay to talk about it. It is how we talk about it that is important and this document helps advance that cause,” Mr Dunne said.

“The media play a critical role in making sure that any public conversation on suicide is informed and useful, and that it does not create further risk or harm,” he said.

The full guidelines can be found at: www.health.govt.nz/publication/reporting-suicide-resource-media