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Launch of NUJ Scotland guidelines on reporting on mental health, mental illness & death by suicide


6 November 2014

New updated guidelines on responsible reporting on mental health, mental illness and death by suicide have been published by the National Union of Journalists in Scotland.

To mark the new publication, a special event to discuss responsible reporting of mental health issues and death by suicide is being held at the University of Strathclyde on Friday 7 November, attended by media representatives, those involved in working and supporting people affected by mental illness and death by suicide, academics researching these topics and individuals speaking about their own personal experiences.

The theme of the seminar is “The Importance of Working Together” with speakers discussing progress to date in improving responsible reporting standards and how everyone affected can continue to work together for the better to ensure media standards continue to improve.

The guidelines were prepared by the National Union of Journalists in Scotland with significant input from Dr Sallyanne Duncan, senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Strathclyde, whose research interests include media reporting of trauma, death, bereavement, mental health and suicide, and has a number of published works in that field. The Scottish government also supported the guidelines with funding and with input from a range of stakeholders which included Choose Life, See Me and the Samaritans.

NUJ Scottish organiser, Paul Holleran, said:

"The media carries an enormous responsibility to deal with certain issues in a sensitive and thoughtful way. Since the NUJ’s first guide was produced, there has been a vast improvement in how journalists report mental health and deaths by suicide. However there are still lessons to be learned as certain recent events have shown. Public attitudes to mental illness have also improved vastly and nowadays the public are not slow to protest when mental health issues are presented inappropriately in the media or elsewhere."

Dr Sallyanne Duncan added:

"This is a really topical time to discuss media reporting of mental health and suicide, not only because the spotlight placed on press behaviour by the Leveson inquiry, but also because of the media storm over some of the reporting of Robin Williams’ suicide and the publication in 2013 of the Scottish government’s new strategy for the prevention of suicide and self-harm as a follow on from the Choose Life strategy."

The minister for public health, Michael Matheson MSP, said:

"I very much welcome the publication of these updated guidelines for journalists, reporters and editors. Media reporting of issues around mental health, mental illness and the very sensitive topic of death by suicide, has improved considerably over the last few years, and I am confident that the revised guidelines will help continue this trend."

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Tags: , ethics, reporting, reporting guidelines, mental health, mental illness, suicide, scotland