A new campaign, led by mental health campaigners Bryony Gordon and Luciana Berger MP, calls for a greater emphasis on responsible reporting around suicide

A letter issued to all the nation’s editors and producers, asking them to lead the way on changing how the country talks about suicide, has been signed by 130 journalists, authors, broadcasters, politicians and is supported by Mind and the Samaritans.

Mental health campaigners Bryony Gordon and Luciana Berger MP are leading this campaign - #talkingsuicide - which launches on 10 September, to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

Their letter asks the following of the nation's Editors and Producers...

  • To pledge that they will portray suicide in a way that reflects our modern understanding of it.
  • To have a continued understanding that the language and images we see and hear in the media shapes the collective understanding of suicide - and so every element of the reporting of suicide carries a responsibility to do so sensitively and with care.
  • To understand the importance of reporting suicide in a way that does not offer details that may encourage others to emulate what they have read (a phenomenon known as The Werther effect - after a number of suicides that were said to have taken place after the Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther was published). Publishing details regarding specific methods of suicide can lead to vulnerable people copying said methods.
  • To understand that reports of celebrity deaths carry greater risks of encouraging others to take their lives, due to the likelihood of over-identification of by vulnerable people
  • The need to refrain from speculation around the causes of suicide - and acknowledging the devastating impact this speculation can have on family and friends, who themselves may be searching for answers and reasoning.
  • To avoid sensationalist headlines and prominent, repeated photos of the deceased - again, being mindful of the impact this can have on those who are bereaved.
  • To refrain from using the term ‘committed suicide’ which suggests that suicide is a sin or crime (it has not been a crime in the UK since 1961). This terminology can have the impact of perpetuating a sense of shame and stigma, and stop people from reaching out for help.
  • To always publish details of suicide help and prevention lines, such as the Samaritans or Mind.
  • To understand that suicide is preventable and that responsible reporting can help to highlight the importance of seeking help and can support efforts to reduce suicide.

Co-signatories of the letter include; Poorna Bell, Jonny Benjamin MBE, Natasha Devon (who Founded the Mental Health Media Charter), Dolly Alderton, David Baddiel, Zoe Ball, Matt Haig, Hope Virgo, Stephen Fry, India Knight, Fearne Cotton, David Harewood MBE, Sali Hughes, Emma Freud, Stephen Manderson (AKA Professor Green), Will Young, CEO’s of a wide range of mental health charities and a large number of politicians and academics.

As well as encouraging support for the pledge, the letter thanks the media for all they are currently doing to support better representations of mental health, noting; "You deserve praise for raising the profile of mental health and tackling the stigma that surround it. Many of us have seen first-hand what a positive difference this coverage makes to people’s lives."

Bryony Gordon echoed this statement, when she spoke about the campaign this weekend. "As a journalist I have seen for myself the positive impact that the media can have on the nation’s mental health. Words are powerful, and we can all make a difference through small changes."

To read more about the campaign and the full letter visit www.talkingsuicide.co.uk


If you need support or are having suicidal thoughts, please call the Samaritans on 116 1123 or email [email protected]

You can also call the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393

Please remember, you are not alone.