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Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;53(3):224-8. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.86812.

The development of a guideline and its impact on the media reporting of suicide.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thrissur, Kerala, India.

Abstract

CONTEXT:

A causal association between media reporting of suicides and the subsequent actual suicides has been observed. There are no studies from India regarding media reporting of suicide. This study examines whether educating media professionals about responsible reporting of suicides can change the quality of reporting.

AIMS:

To study the impact of a guideline on the reporting style of suicides by journalists.

SETTINGS AND DESIGN:

Newspaper reports in the local language examined by psychiatrists.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

The Department of Psychiatry of a Teaching Hospital conducted a workshop for journalists, with the collaboration of media and mental health professionals and came out with a guideline about responsible reporting of suicide. Using this, a proforma was designed for assessing newspaper reports of suicides. All the suicide reports in the leading newspapers in Kerala were analyzed for one year prior to the workshop, the immediate next year, the second year, and six years later, using the 15 item proforma and whether each report was concordant or discordant to each item in the proforma was noted.

RESULTS:

The total concordant responses were 43.7% in the year prior to the workshop, 45.2% during the first year following the workshop, 46.2% in the next year, and 45.7% after six years. When the trend of each item was examined, the concordance rates were increasing in each item, except two. There was no statistical significance.

CONCLUSIONS:

A workshop for journalists could bring about positive changes in the media reporting of suicides. The changes persisted over the years, although they did not reach statistical significance.

KEYWORDS:

Media reporting; guideline; suicide

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