Media Info

Examples of negative reporting

  • Anorexic girl dies
    It is insulting to refer to a person as their illness. You would never describe a person with cancer as a tumour.  It is better to say man/woman with anorexia.
  • Botched suicide attempt
    Suicide should not be discussed in terms of success and failure. The loss of a person’s life cannot be considered a successful outcome.
  • Crazed killer lunatic
    This adds to the misconception that all people with mental health problems are violent.  It causes fear in society.
  • Depressed people should get over it
    This is hurtful to people who are suffering with depression and shows a lack of understanding for the illness.  It is not constructive.
  • Mad man robs bank
    Calling people mad is insulting, and does not help to uncover the real mental health problems or reasons behind a person’s actions.
  • Man ends his life after taking 50 xxxxxx tablets
    You should not provide explicit details of suicide method. This may give vulnerable people the information they need to end their lives and can lead to copycat suicides.
  • People with eating disorders are seeking attention
    This is hurtful to people affected by eating disorders. It is not helpful or constructive and does attempt to understand the reasons behind their behaviour.
  • Psycho lunatic escapes from hospital
    Calling someone a psycho or a lunatic creates hype and fear and adds to the misconception that people with mental health issues are dangerous.
  • Schizo jumps from building
    Using the term schizo is degrading to people with schizophrenia, and their families. It adds to the stigma around the subject which stops people from being able to openly talk about their illness.
  • Schizophrenic involved in crash
    It is degrading to describe a person as their illness. You would never describe a person with cancer as a tumour.  It is better to say man/woman with schizophrenia.
  • She changes her hairstyle so often she must be schizophrenic
    Schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personalities. It should never be used to describe any form of change.
  • Suicide Death plunge
    This sensationalises suicide and would be very traumatising to read for the family and friends of the person.
  • Suicide is the easy option
    Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide.
  • Suicide of honour /Honourable Hara-kiri suicide
    Suicide should never be romanticised or glorified in any way.
  • The weather is schizophrenic this week
    Weather can never be schizophrenic as schizophrenia is a mental illness.
  • Woman commits suicide
    Suicide was decriminalised in Ireland in 1993 and it is no longer a crime to take your life.  The only other time you would use the term commit is when talking about a crime.  This can add to the distress of the family and friends who have lost a loved one.

Points to bear in mind when reporting on mental health issues

    • Check your facts

A lack of understanding and misinformation surrounds many mental health problems. We suggest that if you are writing an article on a mental health problem you contact a relevant organisation which can provide you with facts and information. Contact details to many helpful organisations can be found on our site .

  • Include details for sources of help
    Its is always helpful to include contact details for sources of help and support for people who may be in distress or in need of information.Guidelines and resources
  • Perpetuating stigma
    Various myths surrounding mental health problems exist and journalists should take care not to perpetuate them.People with mental health difficulties are frequently represented as being violent and unpredictable. The truth is that most people with mental health problems are not violent.A misconception that mental health problems cannot be treated exists. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. It is important to be aware that people with mental health problems can and do recover.
  • Watch your language
    Certain terminology that is used when reporting mental health problems can be deeply offensive and hurtful.Referring to a person with a mental health problem as a ‘psycho’, ‘nutter’, ‘looney’, ‘nut’, ‘maniac’ etc. is highly offensive.Referring to someone as a ‘schizophrenic’, a ‘depressive’, an ‘anorexic’ etc. is dismissive and defines the person solely in terms of their illness. It is preferable to use terminology such as a person with schizophrenia, a person with depression etc.Referring to someone with a mental health problem as a ‘victim’ or a ‘sufferer’ is insulting. Instead you should use terminology such as ‘a person with depression’ etc.Take care to use medical terms correctly to avoid confusion. For example using the term ‘schizophrenic’ to imply a state of two minds is inaccurate as schizophrenia has nothing to do with spilt personality disorder.

Points to bear in mind when reporting on suicide

  • Appreciate the complexity of suicide
    Suicide is a complex and difficult issue. The reasons why someone may choose to take his/her life are complex and varied. Try to avoid oversimplifying or presuming to know the reasons why a person has ended their life.  This reasoning behind a person’s decision to take their life is one that can torment the loved ones left behind and could increase their hurt and confusion.
  • Be aware of the impact of the media portrayal of suicide
    You should always be aware of the impact of the media portrayal of suicide. Research shows that the media portrayal of suicide can lead to copycat suicide.(See the Media Guidelines for details on copycat suicides ). You should also consid/media-info/international-guidelines/er the impact of coverage on a person in distress, a survivor of suicide and families bereaved by suicide.
  • Check your facts
    A lack of understanding and misinformation surrounds suicide. We suggest that if you writing an article on suicide you contact a relevant organisation that can provide with facts and information. Contact details to many helpful organisations can be found on our site.Link to mental health info links page.
  • Do not provide explicit details of method
    Providing explicit details of method can give someone the information they need to end their life. It can also lead to an increase in suicide numbers and suicide copied method.  Including explicit details does not add to a story and may potentially lead to loss of life.
  • Include details for sources of help
    Its is always helpful to include contact details for sources of help and support for people who may be in distress or in need of information.
  • Photography
    Graphic images have a negative impact on those bereaved by suicide and people in distress.
  • Positioning
    There is evidence to suggest that the positioning of an item on suicide can lead to an increase in suicide numbers. Avoid positioning a story on the front-page of a publication or the start of a broadcast.
  • Private Details
    Publishing personal details about someone who has died by suicide, adds greatly to the distress of the bereaved at what is already a very difficult time. There is no evidence to show that this enhances the story in any way and may stop a family from moving on with their lives.
  • Watch your language
    Avoid referring to suicides as successful or unsuccessful. Ending one’s life should not be seen as a ‘successful’ outcome.Avoid using the term ‘commit suicide’. Suicide was decriminalised in Ireland in 1993 and the only other time we use the word ‘commit’ is when talking about a crime.