PCI issues guidelines for reporting suicide, mental illness

September 14, 2019 11:00 pm | Updated 11:00 pm IST - Kolkata

The Press Council of India (PCI) has issued guidelines for the reporting of cases of suicide and mental illness.

Under the guidelines, set forth in a press release issued on Friday, the PCI said that while reporting mental illness, “the media shall not publish photograph or any other information of the person undergoing treatment at a mental health establishment without the consent of the person...”

As for suicide cases, the PCI adopted certain guidelines from the World Health Organization’s Preventing suicide: a resource for media professionals-2017.

The PCI said newspapers and news agencies must not “place stories about suicide prominently and unduly repeat such stories”. “The newspapers or news agencies must not use language which sensationalises or normalises suicide, or presents it as a constructive solution to problems… They must not use sensational headlines and must not use photographs, video footage, or social media links,” the release said. They must not “explicitly describe the method used” and must not “provide details about the site/location”.

Speaking to The Hindu , PCI secretary Anupama Bhatnagar said this was the first time the PCI had come up with such guidelines. “Now that the guidelines have been adopted by the PCI, they have become part of journalistic conduct,” Ms. Bhatnagar said. Anyone could lodge a complaint with the PCI about the violation of these guidelines.

Lakshmi Vijayakumar, development psychiatrist and founder of Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre in Chennai, said: “Now that the guidelines have been put in place, it is our duty, as medical professionals and citizens, to function as watchdogs and ensure that the guidelines are implemented. It is also incumbent on the media to adhere to the guidelines.”

She said The Hindu is one among the publications that have adhered to the WHO guidelines on reporting suicides, and now it is time for the others, especially the vernacular publications, to follow suit.

Sujit Sarkhel, convener of the Suicide Prevention Section of the Indian Psychiatry Society, hoped that the guidelines would help to reduce “copycat” suicides. “It took some serious efforts on part of mental health professionals, particularly Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, to get the guidelines approved by the Press Council of India,” he said.

Kolkata suicide helpline: 2463 7401/2463 7432

e-mail: lifelinekolkata@gmail.com. website: www.lifelinefoundation.co.in

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