Media practitioners should be more responsible in covering on suicide in the Philippines, experts said, as they noted that good reportage has the potential of leading to a decrease in suicide rates.
"The media can play a vital role in suicide prevention," psychiatrist Erminia Colucci said in a forum at the University of the Philippines Diliman Monday.
Journalists should consider if the suicide incident involves public interest and if it should be run at all, Colucci said, noting that detailed reports of cases may give rise to "copycat crimes."
"A succession of stories can promote a dose response factor and normalise suicidal behaviour as an acceptable option," she added, citing a guidebook for media reportage on suicide.
Data released by the National Statistics Office in July show that the suicide rate in the Philippines has spiked over the past 21 years, with majority of cases involving people aged 24 years old or below.
Should media decide to report on a case, Colucci said the media should take the opportunity to discourage suicide.
For her part, UP psychiatrist Dinah Nadera noted that "what is most striking about media reports on suicide, though exluding the names of the individuals, mention the exact address of the suicide site."
Overly detailed accounts, which Nadera claimed "are sometimes unnecessary," also include the methods of the suicide.
Nadera, admitted, however, that there is a need for a paradigm shift in terms of Filipinos' view of suicide.
"We have to consider suicide as a public health rather than a medico-legal issue," she said.
Colucci meanwhile urged the media to practice "self-monitoring and regulation," noting that although details may be found in police reports and other public documents, these should be screened to minimize harm.
Reporting about the impact of suicide on bereaved families, for instance, may convince individuals mulling to take their own lives to reconsider, Colucci said.
Aside from ensuring the accuracy of facts used in the report, care should also be exercised in the language being used, Colucci said.
The term suicide should be used sparingly, she said, adding that terms that tend to "glamorize, sensationalize or present suicide as a solution to problems."
Instead of saying that the suicide was "unsuccessful," for instance, journalists should instead say that the attempt was "non-fatal."
Saying that an individual "committed suicide" should also be avoided, due to its negative connotation which seems to suggest that suicide is a crime," Colucci said.
Reports may instead say that an individual "died by suicide" or "took his or her own life," she said.
Suicide stories should also be placed under strong contexts, Colucci said, as she linked suicide to mental or drug-related illnesses and depression.
The experts also encouraged the media to include government agencies, non-governmental organizations and other groups which offer help to individuals with suicidal tendencies or extreme depression.
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