Mental Health Monday: Who you are & the media

I’m assuming that many of you have heard recently of the passing of fashion designer L’Wren Scott.  Unfortunately, suicide has taken the life of yet another person.  I chose to focus this week’s Mental Health Monday on two important issues that need to be addressed regarding L’Wren Scott’s death.  

When we think of suicide, we think that we’re invincible; that it would never happen to someone we love or that it would never happen to someone like L’Wren Scott.  The truth is, it can.  I’ve experienced the lost of a friend at the age of 10 and some still think that a 10 year old never thinks of suicide.  I’ve heard stories of people who lost a father, a mother and some still think that adults with children never think of suicide.  We all think that celebrities like L’Wren Scott have it all and that they would never think of suicide.  But they do.  It doesn’t matter what your age is or how much you have, thoughts of suicide can and do happen.  So we need to take a stand to make sure that when those thoughts do occur, we recognize them and we know what to do, before we lose someone else.

Commuting 45 minutes to school gives me plenty of time to listen to the radio and catch up on the news and what’s trending.  But, I was extremely bothered by the poor reporting of L’Wren Scott’s death.  How many times have you heard or even said “committed suicide”?  I hear it all the time and before I became educated and informed about suicide, I used to say it too.  So now whenever I hear “committed suicide” it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.  By stating something as simple as “committed” it’s implying that a person has committed a crime.  Suicide is not a crime.  Also commonly heard is “killed themselves”.  Stating something like that implies that that a person is a killer.  That person is not a killer, that person was fighting a battle within themselves.  Instead, say that this person has “taken their own life” or “took their own life”.  That way, you’re not implying that the person was a killer or committed crime, you’re simply stating a fact.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a great resource for more information and facts about suicide and prevention.  They have an entire page specifically for the media, so that they know how to report on a suicide.  News organizations need to be more educated and informed about how to report on suicides, it’s a public health issue and the public needs to know about it.  You take a look at the page here and AFSP also provides a handy dandy two-page spread with recommendations on reporting a suicide. 

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4 thoughts on “Mental Health Monday: Who you are & the media

  1. This is a very interesting perspective and I have honestly never thought about it before. I think that our society has a tendency of taking the emotion out of things. Saying someone “committed suicide” is a technical and unfeeling term. if the news outlets or lawyers were to instead say someone “took their own life,” it makes it more personal, more real and therefore more tragic.

  2. This is a great topic and I am glad that you brought this to our attention. The correct selection of wording is very important when it comes to reporting a story or pitching an idea. You certainly do not want to insult your audience with your idea – that is for sure. You are right about the fact that changes to the wording can have different meanings all together and can also resonate differently on an individual basis. In a career that deals with these types of nuances on a daily basis, can you think of a way that you can steer clear of providing your intended audience with this same type of realization as they drive in to work (much like the one your had)? Is it easier to fall into this trap using SM because the level of forethought may be less?

    • I would definitely say that when it comes to social media we don’t pay attention to our wording prior to posting. The idea is to get it the word out there as fast as you can with social media, so we may skip the double checking and rethinking of messages. With topics like this one, pr professionals and really anyone who is communicating with the public should be extra cautious of wording and research the topic prior to reporting.

  3. This is a very interesting post! I have never really taken the time to think about the selection of wording that is used in the news especially when it is about topics such as suicide. It is quite amazing how changing the wording around can give different meanings and change the tone of sentence. It definitely makes you stop and rethink about the way you have worded things.

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