WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - Oct. 16, 2012) - This week the Canadian Association For Suicide Prevention is holding its annual conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In the aftermath of the tragic death of 15 year old Amanda Todd, conference delegates have been engaged in an intense and important conversation on how the media has reported on this traumatic event, a death that has captivated the attention and hearts of Canadians.
Mainstream and social media play a pivotal role in raising public awareness on this important public health issue. The media is one pillar in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. The media can educate, help and inspire hope in those who are vulnerable and may be at risk of suicide. The media also has the potential to harm when reporting inadvertently increases the risk for those who are struggling to find hope. Reporting on this highly publicized event contains examples of both. There has been sensitive and thoughtful reporting that has helped to promote informed commentary and break the secrecy, shame and stigma that so often shrouds suicide. There has also been reporting that has sensationalized and exploited this tragedy and has potentially placed others at greater risk.
There is evidence of increased risks related to reporting on suicide when that reporting does not take a balanced and informed approach. "Suicide should be addressed in the media. We should encourage the media in its responsibility to inform and educate the public", says Dammy Damstron-Albach, president of CASP. "However we can do harm when reporting does not take advantage of all we now know about what is helpful and harmful when talking publically about suicide related deaths" Damstrom-Albach went on to say. For example, it is important to provide links to 24 hour supports when reporting touches vulnerable others. It is important to avoid graphic details that sensationalize or romanticize suicide, particularly with details regarding means.
Tim wall, Executive Director of CASP stated that "when the media and those involved in suicide prevention work together we can better serve the public good and talk about suicide in a way that increases safety rather than increasing risk".
"While CASP was deeply concerned about recent, these tragedies challenge us all to reflect on how we can be part of the solution and learn together. We should take time to educate ourselves, the public and the media on safer ways to report the news" said Renee Oiumet, CASP's president elect. This national dialogue must include a conversation on the many challenges that social networking presents to suicide prevention. We are being challenged like never before to keep up with how to also inform and use social networking so that it helps save lives rather than destroy them, to inspire hope rather than humiliate and exploit peoples vulnerabilities", said Ouimet.
CASP encourages all media and journalists to learn more about responsible and balanced reporting on suicides by visiting its website at www.suicideprevention.ca or www.ottawasuicidepreventioncoalition.com.