Herts newspapers sign up to new contract on sensitive reporting of suicide stories

Back left to right: Tom Cahill, Chief Executive of HPFT, Robert Stringer of Hectors House charity, C

Back left to right: Tom Cahill, Chief Executive of HPFT, Robert Stringer of Hectors House charity, Cllr Richard Roberts, Hertfordshire County Council, Chief Constable Charlie Hall. Front: Stephen Turner, from the Samaritans, and Archant Herts group editor Matt Adams at the signing of the sensitive reporting of suicide contract. - Credit: Archant

Newspapers across the county have signed up to a new charter committing to helping prevent suicide by reporting the subject with sensitivity.

The initiative was organised by Herts Suicide Prevention Network as part of its ongoing vision to create a county where nobody ever reaches the point where they feel suicide is the only option.

Research by the Samaritans indicates that the way in which possible suicides are reported in the media can have a profound impact on people who might be considering taking their lives.

Matt Adams, group editor of regional publisher Archant’s Herts titles, which include the Herts Advertiser, the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Royston Crow and Comet series said: “Our newspapers are committed to doing everything within our power to help vulnerable people and prevent suicide, and we are proud to be supporting this important initiative.

“If by changing the way in which we cover these tragic events we can go some way towards preventing further suicides, then it’s something we should embrace at every level.”

The charter includes a commitment to thinking about the impact of media coverage on the audience, avoiding over-simplification and sensationalism, being cautious when referring to the methods and context of a suicide, considering the use of language carefully, and educating and informing readers about the wider issues associated with suicide and the support available.

The county’s Suicide Prevention Network is made up of more than 80 people from 20-plus organisations working in focused groups to help reduce the number of lives lost, including Herts Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT), Herts police and the county council.

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Robert Stringer, whose son Hector took his own life in 2011, is the founder of suicide and crisis prevention charity Hector’s House: “Those left behind – family members, friends, colleagues, even a wider circle of people who might identify with the individual – are at great risk from insensitive reporting.

“They are highly vulnerable themselves and so reporting of the suicide needs to be treated with great care to spare them additional pain and ensure they don’t end up making the same wrong decision.

“Responsible reporting may raise valuable awareness and could save lives.”