Guidelines on Ethical and Responsible Reporting on Suicide
October 13, 2021
The media is a key source of information and their news coverage can influence the public’s attitudes and perceptions toward certain issues. But when it comes to complex or sensitive issues such as mental illness or suicide, media coverage tends to emphasise negative aspects, often choosing to focus on portrayals of violence, unpredictability and danger to others. Suicide reporting is an especially vital issue presently, given the recent announcement by the Malaysian government that attempting suicide will be decriminalised.
In a joint study released in February 2021 by Relate Mental Health Malaysia and the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), the study indicated there was still a lack of awareness about suicide and its risk factors within the Malaysian communities. This has also contributed to the concerning trend of unethical and irresponsible reporting on suicide. Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also expressed his concerns on the rising rate of suicides reported recently and urged the public to be more aware of people suffering from depression around them. He stressed that the media should be more proactive and responsible by spreading accurate information and adhere to the Guidelines for Responsible Media Reporting on suicide that was published by the MOH’s Control Department.
We strongly believe that the Malaysian media play a crucial role in educating the public about suicide prevention. In developed nations such as Australia, responsible reporting on suicide is believed to be a significant factor in reducing suicide cases. An organisation called Mindframe offers advice to the media about the most responsible way to report on issues related to mental health, violence and crime.
Do check out the ‘Guidelines on Ethical and Responsible Reporting on Suicide’ that CIJ has prepared together with Befrienders KL in English and Bahasa Melayu.
CIJ is also organising an online casual talk show, “Destigmatising Suicide: The Role of The Media ” on Thursday, 21 October 2021.
The discussion will look into ways to address issues such as how unethical reporting on suicide can be harmful and how Malaysia compares to other countries on the matter of suicide prevention, and more. We aim to raise awareness amongst Malaysians on the importance of ethical and responsible reporting on suicide.