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Health Minister supports new media guidelines for reporting of suicide and self-harm

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Revised guidelines have been published today to assist journalists with the reporting of suicide and self harm incidents.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) is supporting the guidelines which have been launched by The Irish Association of Suicidology (IAS), the Samaritans and the National Office for Suicide Prevention in the Republic of Ireland.

Michael McGimpsey said: “As suicide respects no borders, I have been working with my counterparts in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain to ensure a co-ordinated response to this tragic phenomenon.

“Organisations across the public, voluntary and community sectors are all contributing to the drive against suicide and I commend the Samaritans and the IAS for updating the media guidelines for the reporting of suicide and self-harm.”

The Minister added: “The Media has a vital role in ensuring that incidents of suicide and self-harm are not sensationalised or, worse still, glamourised. Reporting must also be constantly mindful of the hurt and pain of those loved ones left behind.

“Thankfully our local media has shown itself to be very sensitive to these needs, and its professional approach to the reporting of such incidents has contributed greatly to our efforts to tackle this problem. The new guidelines will further support their good work in this area.”

Welcoming the inclusion of the new media in the guidelines, Mr McGimpsey, said: “I have previously highlighted my particular concerns about the insidious promotion of suicide and self-harm on internet websites and chat-rooms. The updated media guidelines cover the new communications technologies. I therefore intend to share the guidelines with my colleagues on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety."

Note to Editors:

1. The Northern Ireland Suicide Prevention Strategy, “Protect life- A Shared Vision”, acknowledges that patterns of suicide and self-harm are similar on both sides of the border, and it therefore highlights the potential for mutually beneficial North/South working. The revised media guidelines form part of the agreed All-Island action on suicide prevention, and regular progress updates are also provided to the North South Ministerial Council.

2. Minister McGimpsey previously challenged both Central Government and the major Internet providers to take tougher action against those sites that were promoting suicide on the worldwide web. Following the publication of the Bryon Report ‘Safer Children in a Digital World’ in March 2008, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety was established to co-ordinate action on this issue and the Health Minister represents local interests on this body.

3. The Media Guidelines are available online.

4. Press enquiries to DHSSPS press office on 028 90520579. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.