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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – There’s A Right Way And A Wrong Way To Report On #Suicide

By MARTHA J. DICKEY

The media can play a constructive role in educating its audience. Whether it’s sharing a current event or reporting on a #suicide, we all turn to the media first to find more information. Increasingly, that media is found on #Twitter, #Facebook and other online platforms.

#Suicide is a public health issue. I know, because I lost my 19-year-old son, Jason, to #suicide in 2017. #Suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people ages 10 to 24 in New Hampshire.

When a young man took his life last week in Concord, I was instantly transported back to the day Jason died. I was traveling alone at an airport in Chicago when I was informed of his death.

However, prior to that, and mercifully unbeknownst to me, there was already a post on #Facebook sharing the news of “an apparent #suicide in Concord, NH.” That news included photos of Jason’s car. Those photos were more than just photos of a car. Jason was so proud of that car and it was easily recognizable to anyone who knew him. Those photos weren’t necessary or even relevant to the story.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

The harm caused to loved ones who had to see those photos far outweighed any perceived benefit that could come from publishing them.

Our loved ones are more than just stories. These stories have families attached to them. Families who are about to have their lives blown apart. Families who have just lost a loved one to #suicide and will never be the same. They are just beginning to notify family and friends of the death and deserve to be able to do so without having to worry about racing the news as it spreads on #socialmedia.

There is a protocol for these things that needs to be followed. Publish the story if you need to, however, think about what is being shared and why you’re sharing it. How will it be viewed and shared? It doesn’t have to go viral to have an impact.

#Mentalhealth experts have criticized the media in the past for its general portrayal of #suicide while failing to give adequate attention to #mentalhealthissues more broadly. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be like this and changes can be made starting today.

For example, the media could refrain from publishing the method used or including photos. Instead, that space can be used to provide resources people can use to reach out if they are struggling with #mentalillness or feeling suicidal.

There are numerous resources available for how to report on #suicide, such as the World Health Organization.

Consider including: “If you or a loved one is considering #suicide, please call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255.”

We owe these families a more thoughtful story. Together as a community we can educate people.

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