In media, there has been a long-standing policy not to report on suicides, as it is believed the mere mention will cause further copy-cat deaths.
However, by not reporting on suicides, media misleads the public into thinking the problem of mental illness is less prevalent than it actually is.
The end result is that mental illness has become invisible and it is poorly understood by the public.
The fact is, mental illness can be a terminal disease, and suicide can be the end result of mental illness.
According to Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mental illness is the second-leading cause of disability and premature death in Canada.
But sadly, many mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, are still looked at as a sign of weakness, a character flaw.
If more people were to look at mental illness as the serious health problem it is, there would be less stigma and less hesitation for those suffering to come forward.
And that will save lives.
If done right.
More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals, according to Reporting on Suicide.
The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage, as well as how descriptive it is.
We have to be careful not to sensationalize or glamorize a death.
“But covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths, which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.”
In recent weeks, we have extensively covered the story of Amanda Todd, the local teenager who look her own life after being bullied for years.
Like so many suicides, mental illness played a role in her death. We believe it is important to share Amanda’s story, to help further the public understanding of the many factors that contributed to her death, so that similar cases can be prevented in the future. It is what Amanda wanted, and it is what her family wants.
No one should be ashamed of, or ridiculed for a medical problem, which is what mental illness is.
With compassion, empathy, and understanding, we can help prevent others from suffering a similar fate to Amanda Todd’s.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News