Media and its role in preventing suicides

KUCHING: The media plays a significant role in providing useful information to individuals, including those who are vulnerable and who are at risk of suicide.

As suicide is a complex but preventable phenomenon, suicide prevention strategies should be in place.

A dialogue session with media practitioners held in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) celebrated on Sept 10 annually was organised by Befrienders Kuching on Aug 23 at the Sarawak State Library.

The session was to share the guidelines for responsible reporting on suicide, seeing that it is a global public health concern and its figures in Sarawak had been on the rise.

The highlight of the session was to increase the Papageno effect  that mass media can have by presenting non-suicide alternatives to crises via responsible reporting on suicide cases.

Media reports on suicide should include vital information like local helpline, ways of seeking help and emotional support as well as minimising detailed elaboration on suicidal crisis.

Suicide cuts across every socio-demographic level and its impacts could be extending to the families, friends, colleagues and even communities.

Every year, about 800,000 people lose their lives by suicide and it is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 years old.

Suicide is a complex but preventable phenomenon and suicide prevention strategies should be in place.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched its worldwide initiative for the prevention of suicide as early as in year 1999 by preparing a series of resources addressed to specific social and professional groups.

Later, International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) joined the force and announced the launching of World Suicide Prevention Day in 2003.

Following this, the Ministry of Health Malaysia developed its “Guideline for Media Reporting on Suicide” while WHO also launched its guideline for media professionals in preventing suicide in year 2008 and was updated in year 2017.

This year, IASP set the theme of WSPD as “working together to prevent suicide” as everyone in this society is a key player in preventing suicide.

One of the National Strategic and Action Plan for suicide prevention is to collaborate with the media to promote responsible reporting on suicide and suicidal behaviour. The media plays a significant role in providing useful information to the user including those who are vulnerable and who are at risk of suicide, they can strongly influence community attitudes, beliefs, behaviour and social practice.

Hence, their role in suicide prevention is undeniable, provided adherence to the reporting guideline is enhanced.