BACKGROUND: Rates of suicide in New Zealand are high compared with those of other countries. International evidence suggests that the reporting of suicide may influence rates of suicidal behavior. No research exists, however, on the reporting of suicide by New Zealand media.
AIMS: This study provides the first baseline picture of the reporting of suicide by New Zealand media. The overall objective was to use the findings to inform future development of media guidelines by the Ministry of Health.
METHOD: Newspaper, Internet, television and radio news items on suicide were collected over 12 months. Descriptive statistical data on the nature and extent of the reporting of suicide were generated through content analysis of applicable items. A random sample of 10% was then subjected to a quality analysis to determine whether items aligned with the Ministry of Health's guideline for the reporting of suicide.
RESULTS: A total of 3,483 items were extracted, most of which reported on an individual's attempted or completed suicide, while suicide methods were not often mentioned. Few items focused on people overcoming their difficulties or provided information to assist people struggling with suicidal ideation.
CONCLUSIONS: The reporting of suicide by New Zealand media was extensive and generally of good quality. Better collaboration between the media and mental health professionals is needed, however, to increase information supplied within items on support services. More succinct guidelines and increased journalist awareness of their existence would also contribute to the quality of reporting on suicide.
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