New Zealand Takes Action on Respectful Suicide Reporting


The New Zealand Parliament is considering a series of recommendations by the country’s Law Commission on April 1 that asks the media – mainstream and social media – not to report the details of how a suicide was committed. The move was made to prevent copycat suicides, a phenomenon highlighted in the United States following Marilyn Monroe’s alleged 1962 suicide, when America’s suicide rate spiked. The recommendation was welcomed by the New Zealand government, the Media Freedom Committee, and suicide prevention groups. Media Freedom Committee chairman Tim Murphy praised the recommendation as striking a balance between “openness and care.”

While the Law Commission recommends the media not report on the details of death, they do say that the death can be announced as a suicide once the coroner’s report has proven so, and as a “suspected suicide” prior to the coroner’s decision if there is sufficient evidence.  Murphy hopes that this new style of reporting suicides, which are still euphemistically referred to as deaths with “no suspicious circumstances” in the media, will help create more openness and dialogue about the issue among New Zealanders. Read more about the Law Commission’s recommendation here.

In June 2012, the Dart Center conducted a “Covering Suicide” workshop for local journalists and regional news organizations in the greater Philadelphia area. Read more about the event here