This is an open letter from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention CEO Robert Gebbia.
The research is clear: inappropriate messaging of deaths by suicide can trigger others to attempt suicide.
Your help is especially important with reporting on the death of Robin Williams, as your story will reach a wide audience, including people already at risk, who may be contemplating suicide. Word choice, phrasing, and content matters. Please take a moment to make sure your reporting is safe. You just might save a life.
I hope Williams's death will start a thoughtful conversation about suicide and mental health. Take the opportunity to encourage readers struggling with mental health issues to seek the help they need to get well-and stay-healthy.
Please see our short guide to safe reporting.
Thank you for helping to prevent suicide.
Chief Executive Officer
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Do include links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Do include stories of hope.
- Do monitor comment sections to identity hurtful statements, or people expressing suicidal thoughts.
- Do contact an expert on suicide to get the facts.
- Do report suicide as a health issue.
- Avoid showing videos or photos of the method or location used.
- Avoid framing suicide in terms of success: do not say committed suicide; do not say suicide attempts are successful or failed. Instead say died by suicide.
- Avoid romanticizing the death.
- Avoid describing suicide rates as skyrocketing, or as an epidemic, or other strong terms.
- Avoid publishing text from a suicide note.
- Avoid quoting police or first responders.
- Avoid describing a suicide as inexplicable or without warning.
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis
2014 Walk Co-Chair
Dickinson County Out of
Walk For Suicide