Published: 15-09-2023 16:00 | Updated: 15-09-2023 16:00

WHO launches resources on responsible media reporting and decriminalization of suicide

World Health Organization (WHO) has launched two new publications focusing on responsible media reporting about suicide and decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempt.

On September 12th, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched two new publications aimed at strengthening suicide prevention efforts: a fourth edition of Preventing suicide: A resource for media professionals and Policy brief on the health aspect of decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts

“Each death by suicide is a tragedy, and more must be done to strengthen suicide prevention. The resources launched by WHO today provide important guidance on two areas which are critical to suicide prevention efforts: decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts and responsible reporting of suicide by the media,” said Dévora Kestel, Director of Mental Health and Substance Use, World Health Organization.

Translation and cultural adaptation for Swedish context done by NASP

Since 1997, NASP has been linked to the World Health Organization as "WHO Lead Collaborating Center of Mental Health Problems and Suicide Across Europe". NASP are responsible of translating and culturally adapting WHO's materials for suicide prevention. A translated and adapted for Sweden version of "Preventing suicide: A resource for media professionals" will be published this autumn.

For previous translations and support materials for other professional groups, you can visit our webpage Suicide preventive guidelines.

Responsible media reporting on suicide

The fourth edition of "Preventing suicide: A resource for media professionals" was developed in collaboration with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). It summarizes current evidence on media reporting and its impact on suicide and provides practical guidance for media professionals on how to responsibly report on suicide.

“Responsible media coverage of suicide is an important tool in our collective suicide prevention efforts. By using this resource, media professionals can help minimize imitative behaviours through accurate, appropriate, and empathetic reporting on suicide, and encourage people to seek vital help,” said Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, Scientist at WHO.

Decriminalization of suicide and suicide attempts

Suicide and suicide attempts are considered criminal acts in at least 23 countries. Criminalizing suicide perpetuates an environment that fosters shame towards individuals who have attempted suicide, discouraging them from seeking help due to fear of legal consequences and stigma.

The main recommendations focus on developing national suicide prevention strategies, allocating funds for education, establishing community-based mental health services with a rights-oriented approach, and formulating new laws and policies that promote high-quality care. The report also highlights how decriminalization saves lives by reducing the stigma and shame associated with suicide, creating an environment where people feel safe to seek help, and improving data collection on suicides and suicide attempts which can better inform appropriate interventions. It also enhances opportunities for awareness-raising and advocacy for suicide prevention.