Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A well-loved man.

Earlier this year, a friend of several of my friends died. He was young, and the circumstances were tragic and, at the time, somewhat newsworthy. But the news media can all too easily lose sight of the very real grief and sadness surrounding someone's death, by getting caught up in the 'story'.

Some months later, and this 'story' has re-appeared in the local news, because his inquest has taken place. The real loss facing his friends and family has been overlooked in favour, yet again, of sensationalised details of his death.

Because he died by suicide, even more care than usual should be taken when reporting his death. According to the Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice, "When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.". This is also backed up by the Samaritans, who say that
certain types of suicide reporting are particularly harmful and can act as a catalyst to influence the behaviour of people who are already vulnerable.[...] Research suggests that media portrayal can influence suicidal behaviour and this may result in an overall increase in suicide and/or an increase in uses of particular methods.
They also specifically advise the media to "Avoid explicit or technical details of suicide in reports".

On a more personal level, this man's friends and family are devastated at his loss. In particular, it is felt that reports like the one in today's Star not only dramatise a tragic situation, they also ignore that this was a person who was loved, and whose life amounted to so much more than what was portrayed. In addition, the mention of his child is worded in such a way that his friends are concerned that this could cause her to blame herself for his death when she is older.

This man died because of depression, and responsible reporting should include information on how people who are feeling depressed can seek help. Ethical reporting should refrain from including unnecessary, distressing details of his last moments. And respectful reporting should take into account the feelings of those who loved him, who will read this news report with a pain that is difficult to describe, but devastating to experience.

I did not know this man, but have seen similar newspaper reports on the suicides of two of my friends, so I know this pain well.