Editorial: Feedback positive on policy changeLast week on these pages we wrote about our new policy when it comes to reporting on mental health crises and suicide. To summarize, our longstanding policy here was that we don’t report on suicides unless they happen in public.
Last week on these pages we wrote about our new policy when it comes to reporting on mental health crises and suicide. To summarize, our longstanding policy here was that we don’t report on suicides unless they happen in public. Most newspapers across the nation have a similar policy.
This was in place because, long ago, word spread that if we were to report on these suicides, we could end up causing more of them. We’ve come to learn a lot more about mental health diseases, so we are changing that policy. We will report on these matters and we will do so with great care and great caution. We won’t be naming anyone. We won’t be publishing addresses. In this week’s police report, we implemented the change. You’ll see four mental illness matters from just last week alone.
We asked for your feedback regarding the policy, and we heard from a lot of you. We received emails from Arlington, Va., a phone call from the executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. Emails and calls from readers here in Hastings poured in, too.
One voicemail was especially touching. A woman called here and left two messages. What she said reminded us of why we decided to make this change in the first place. We were sweeping the problem under the rug. We were making the problem worse, not better.
“Open the doors,” the woman said. “Let this stuff come out. We need to talk about it.”
She said families are often blamed when they have a loved one take his or her own life. The shame they have, she said, “is terrible.”
Making matters worse is that since nobody is talking about it in the open, those families become isolated.
“There is no safe place to talk about it,” she said. “If we can’t talk about it, then we’re never going to resolve this issue and we’re going to see more and more people die. Let’s get down to the brass tacks and talk about it, please.”
In a phone conversation we had Tuesday afternoon with Daniel Reidenberg, the executive director of SAVE, he shared with us the website www.reportingonsuicide.org, The website lays out some tips for newspapers like this one when it comes to reporting on suicides. A large panel of experts put together the site, and they concluded that “covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misconceptions and correct myths which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.”
One thing we will need to balance, we are being told by experts, is “normalizing” the occurrence.
“Suicide is not a normal response to mental illness,” one expert told us.
As always, if you have comments or feedback about this policy you can reach Star Gazette editor Chad Richardson at 651-319-4500 or email@example.com.