Section 71 of the Coroner’s Act prevents the media using the phrase “the death is suspected to be suicide” and instead requires the media to use euphemisms. I have heard two explanations for the restriction â€“ preventing additional suicides and respect for the family â€“ neither hold water because we permit overt reporting of suicides providing that the conventional euphemisms are used. It’s not even necessary to canvas the dubious argument that reporting cases of suicide may inspire other suicides, because the reality is that suicide cases are reported on and everyone knows it.Â
Media organisations have argued against the restriction for years on the grounds that it unnecessarily restricts press freedom. I’d also like to add the argument that it reinforces a culture of shame and secrecy for families dealing with the pain of suicide â€“ a truly awful experience only compounded by the message from society that we must not speak of it.
Suicide must be reported on respectfully, it must not be sensationalised and the media must respect the pain of the family and friends. The Coroners Act does not require any of those, all is asks is that media use well recognised euphemisms.