Fri, Apr 20, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Premier takes media to task over suicide reporting

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Following a spate of suicides involving children, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday called on the media to take an ethical approach to their coverage to prevent copycat suicides.

Chen said he hoped the press would follow WHO recommendations for the media coverage of suicides to help decrease the suicide rate, Executive Yuan spokesman Philip Yang (楊永明) said at a press conference after a regular Cabinet meeting.

The WHO says there are six things the media should not do when reporting on suicides: Publish photographs or suicide notes; report specific details of the method used; give simplistic reasons for the act; sensationalize or glorify suicides; use religious or cultural stereotypes in interpreting suicide; and apportion blame, Yang said.

Instead, the media should work closely with health authorities in presenting the facts; refer to a suicide as a “completed suicide,” not a “successful” one; present only relevant data; place the stories on inside pages; highlight alternatives to suicide; provide information on helplines and community resources; and publicize risk indicators and warning signs, he said.

The decline in the number of people committing suicide demonstrates that suicide prevention efforts led by the government over the years have come to fruition to some degree, but the recent cases in which parents killed themselves and their children were heart-wrenching news, Yang quoted Chen as saying.

According to Yang, government statistics showed that the number of people committing suicide declined from a peak of 4,406 people in 2006, or 19.3 people per 100,000, to 3,417 people last year, or 14.7 people per 100,000.

In an apparent move to dismiss suggestions of a link between suicide and economic pressures — especially given the recent increases in the price of gasoline and electricity — Yang said that suicide is never the result of a single factor.

The Department of Health attributed suicide to various factors, including family disharmony, mental illness, disappointment in love, economic problems, unemployment and socio-cultural pressures, he said.

Yang said the government would continue its efforts on suicide prevention via provision of social support and education.

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