Covering Suicide in the Media


The Vancouver School Board wants Media reporting on teen suicide to follow guidelines created by the Canadian Psychiatric Association. There's concern about copycat suicides, repetition, use of language. But there was a time not so long ago when Journalists didn't even cover teen suicide. So where's the line? What's the role of the journalist? What's the fallout around incessant coverage in a 24 hour news cycle? And with so much information, discussion and comment swirling on Social Media who will take Guidance from Guidelines ?

Covering Suicide in the Media - Panel

The short life of Amanda Todd received the full glare of the media's attention. For weeks, newspapers and newscasts around the world reported on her case; the bullying, her struggle, her depression. And Amanda's final act of desperation was at the centre of all the coverage. For Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus it was all too much. We aired a clip.

In response, the Vancouver School Board voted that week to send a letter to media outlets urging them to enforce stricter rules on reporting suicides ... hoping they'll adopt guidelines outlined by the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

Jitender Sareen was co-author of those guidelines, Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide. He's Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba. He was at home in Winnipeg.

And Andre Picard is a health reporter and columnist with the Globe and Mail. He was in our Vancouver studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Lara O'Brien and Pacinthe Mattar.

Music Bridge

Artist: Avanti
Cd: Ramblin' Ambassadors
Cut: # 1, Sixty Seconds to What
Label: Mint
Spine: MRO 067

Mail: Dog Therapy

Many of you were moved by another story on the program this week about young people and stress. With exam season at Canadian universities and colleges, students across the country are pulling all nighters. To help manage the stress of study and deadlines, some schools introduced some drug free relief - therapeutic dog visits.

Monday, we wondered whether anxiety is just part of the demands of higher education -- or whether student stress is out of hand.

Sam Bradd tweeted us:

Puppies-for-stress is great. But I didn't hear your guests mention the stress of student debt. Average: 28 thousand dollars.

Connie Gerwing of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan emailed us this:

Many more people are happy working in the applied fields - rather than theorizing, which is the domain of university. We'd have a lot less stress if we did a better job of helping students understand themselves.

And from Annie Hayes of Prince George, BC we heard this:

Our daughter is completing her final year of undergraduate studies at McGill. She left home at 17 and was well prepared; she understood the importance of exercise, rest and proper nutrition as stress management tools and has navigated the sometimes very intense academic waters successfully so far.

However, it has been 25 years since I completed a science degree at UBC and it seems the model has stayed the same. Large classes - especially in the first 2 years of an undergraduate degree, make for a very impersonal experience and it's easy for even the most prepared students to feel disengaged.

Multiple choice final exams that count for 75% of their final grade and professors who may be top researchers but poor teachers are still commonplace experiences. Yes, students and their families need to take personal responsibility for their experiences - it is a privilege after all. But universities need to take equal responsibility, and not just look at band aid solutions to students' stress.

But most of the response we heard was along the lines of ...tough it out!

Diane Powell of Wentworth, Nova Scotia sent this:

If students had to face failure and the necessity to study and work hard in their early school years, the stress of university would not be a problem. If students can fail in a supportive environment, they will be able to handle it later.

And one more from Joe Perticaro of Little Current, Ontario:

Our kids are increasingly physically challenged, emotionally inadequate and mentally undisciplined. We need to look into our collective mirror and face the truth ... we are our own worst enemy!

To weigh in on this or anything else on The Current, email us from our website. Or on Facebook - And tune in tomorrow for our segment Checking In, when we'll share some more of your feedback and follow up some of the stories we've been covering.

Last Word - Urge to Kill Promo

Coming up tomorrow on The Current, the story of an unusual criminal in British Columbia-- and the equally unusual measures to which a judge has resorted to make sure her crimes never grow more serious.

For today's Last Word, CBC reporter Jason Proctor gave us a preview.

Other segment from today's show:

Child Custody for Rapists

Centrist Israelis Search for A Way Forward

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