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Recommendations on Covering Suicide and Gun Violence

We are heartbroken by the deaths of two Parkland teens, as well as the death of Jeremy Richman, whose daughter, Avielle, was shot and killed in the Sandy Hook School mass shooting. The trauma of gun violence does not end when the cameras go away, or when the sympathy cards stop arriving.

If your news organization opts to cover these tragedies, please consider following the advice of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which has resources for journalists covering suicide.

The AFSP recommends reporting on suicide without sensationalizing the death, or framing it as a trend. It suggests including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 800-273-8255, as a resource to readers, viewers and listeners. It suggests avoiding the stigmatizing “committed suicide” language, instead opting for clear, factual language, such as “died by suicide.” If possible, AFSP suggests including a side-bar to any story on suicide, with suicide warning signs and what to do if you fear for a loved one plainly laid out for readers.

Notably, AFSP recommends making sure that someone at risk of suicide cannot access dangerous items including firearms. Responsible gun storage — keeping firearms locked in a gun safe and separate from ammunition — can save lives, as can filing a Red Flag order to prevent a person in crisis from accessing a firearm. While the details of these tragedies are still unfolding, research tells us that access to a gun in a moment of crisis can be the difference between life and death. Most people who attempt suicide do not die — unless they use a gun. Eighty-five percent of suicide attempts with a gun end in death; but without a gun, fewer than five percent of suicide attempts result in death. Removing guns from a crisis situation can save lives.

If we can be a resource, do not hesitate to reach out.

If you are struggling and need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always open: 800-273-8255.