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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Guideline For Responsible Reporting On #MentalIllness And #Suicide

Yangyel Lhaden

More than 80 people take their life in Bhutan every year. Many, due to reasons myriad, go unreported.

Because #suicide and #mentalillness are sensitive subjects, reporting and writing about these issues require extreme care beginning with as simple as choice of words to avoid imitation and other damaging psychological impacts in the society.

Journalists’ Association of Bhutan (JAB), together with Bhutan Media Foundation, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, has come up with “Media Guideline for the Responsible Reporting of #MentalIllness and #Suicide” to help journalists write about these issues responsibly.

The guideline includes principle of sensitivity and realistic portrayals of #mentalillness and #suicide.

According to JAB officials, the role of the guideline was not to limit press freedom but that it should serve as a template for standardized reporting and messaging about #mentalillness and #suicide.

According to a #WorldHealthOrganisation guideline for media professionals sensationalized front-page news story on suicides increased #suicide cases in many societies. Systematic reviews of these studies showed that media reports on #suicide could lead to imitative behaviour.

Dr Chencho Dorji, psychiatrist, said that the exposure to contagion—#suicide or suicidal behaviour through media report—triggers similar past incidences in readers and this could increase suicidal behaviour in that person.

He also said that people psychologically were drawn to read such stories because it addressed human’s core issue: survival instinct.

“The media can take this opportunity to educate the people and create awareness rather than focusing on the death of the person,” he said.

#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

How to report #mentalillness and #suicide cases?


Emphasize that #suicide is preventable and #mentalillness is treatable.

Privacy should be given to the subject and the family.

The methodology on how person took his/her own life should not be presented.

The report should create awareness with information, warning signs, and helpline numbers.

Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about cases.

Convey #suicide as a complex issue.

Convey #suicide as public health concern rather than portraying it as a crime.

Use correct terminology: “died by #suicide” or “took his/her own life” not “committed #suicide”.

Avoid using “crazy”, “choe-lo” or “psycho” to describe #mentallyill person.

Avoid usage of language that sensationalize or normalizes #suicide. Instead, present a solution to the problem and educate the people.


Sensationalised heading or glorify #suicide or #mentalillness.

Publish the news on front page.

Depict #suicide as being more common than it is.

Judge the deceased or imply that he/she was effective in achieving the goal.

Over simplify the causes of death by the last cause of death.

Disclose the identity of the deceased.

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