Chief Masterson and Ombudsman Murphy want to thank Kim Kane and all who attended this valuable discussion. Hopefully those who attended left with a deeper understanding of the obligation we all have to be responsible with our messaging on this and other topics that impact the safety of our community.
Boise, Jan. 23, 2013 - Making Boise a safer, healthier community was the goal of a discussion hosted by Boise Chief of Police Michael Masterson and Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy. The discussion included managers from local Boise area TV and newspaper newsrooms, law enforcement and school public information officers and suicide prevention experts. The topic: How we talk about suicide can save lives.
A Message of Help and Hope: Noted suicide prevention expert Kim Kane gave a well-researched presentation and led the discussion. Kane is the former executive director of the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho (SPAN Idaho). She agreed with news managers that there are times when a public purpose is served by reporting on suicide. All agreed, the key is to report on the topic with awareness and responsibility, and to always include a strong message of help and hope.
Kane utilized comprehensive studies to explain why suicide is a serious public health issue in our state. She focused on a growing body of evidence that shows how media coverage of suicide and related issues can positively or negatively impact vulnerable individuals.
Kane and other suicide prevention experts urge media and anyone talking publically about suicide to always end coverage with the following or a similar statement: If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Other suggestions for news media; including the warning signs of suicide in a story and a web link to that important information; avoid misinformation from well meaning but potentially mis-informed subjects; use information from suicide prevention experts the story, and always offer hope.
Sensitive but Critical Topic to Public Safety, Officer Safety: Chief Masterson and Ombudsman Murphy have put together a working group of mental health professionals to look at what more we can do as a community to positively impact this serious and often hidden problem faced by so many individuals and families. One of the first steps the group suggested was a frank and open discussion with local newsroom leaders and law enforcement public information officers about how media coverage and the language used can impact people on the verge of crisis.
Recent newsmaking incidents between police officers and those intent on suicide has brought more attention locally to the issue, but it is certainly not new. Studies show media coverage of high profile suicides has been responsible for choices people make on taking – or saving their own lives. All attending the discussion agreed we share an interest in keeping Boise be a safe, healthy community to live, work and do business in, which in our various roles, we all play a part.
For media reporting and message guidelines developed by national media organizations and suicide prevention groups, click on: www.ReportingOnSuicide.org
Download the Guideline .pdf here!