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Mar 29, 2017

What Not to Do When Reporting Suicides

Eleanor Bennett

As recently as the early 2000’s, it was still considered a crime in Belize to attempt to kill yourself. Those who have succeeded seem to be tainted in the eyes of others. But suicide is the end result of a process of mental destabilization that can be prevented. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Tuesday hosted a web session to consider the ethics of reporting suicide. According to Nursing Administrator for the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Health, Nurse Eleanor Bennett, it does better for society if suicide and suicide attempts are not romanticized or given outsize coverage. Our policy at this station is not to report on suicides except in some exceptional cases. As Bennett points out, the focus should be on figuring out what makes someone decide to take that final step, and preventing that from happening to others.

 

Nurse Eleanor Bennett, Mental Health Nursing Administrator

“The media often times presents situation like that as happening without warning, happening out of the blue; like “I just saw him this morning and he died – he killed himself!” That in most cases, is not true; people do leave warning signs – the problem is that we either don’t recognize them or ignore them. And it’s during that time that people could get treatment, and then the end result does not have to happen. Something else that was also mentioned is that they are not saying that you are not supposed to report on these stories; what they are saying is that there are ways that you can present the story that is responsible. For example if somebody that we know that is “famous” died by suicide, it’s important that you report that the person died; then you have to ask yourself the question what is the value of reporting that this person died by suicide? Who is that really helping? So yes, the death definitely needs to be reported.”

 

Reporter

“But you don’t emphasize…?”

 

Nurse Eleanor Bennett

“You don’t need to; according to them, there is really not a lot of value in emphasizing how the person died if it is by suicide, whatever was happening in the person’s life, those things are details that are not really helpful.”

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