Stigma Busting the Media
Early in my advocacy - well, the first four years really - I was enraged by the seemingly determined ignorance of the media. To use NAMI's term, I stigma-busted right and left. But here's the deal. The paper cited in my letter to the editor did not correct their coverage for five more years. Five. We lost nearly 200 community members and, if AFSP's conservative estimates of numbers are true in my little town, we have 5,000 attempt survivors during the same time period. I'm not blaming the paper. Just saying that it takes a long time to change a pattern. Back then I was still in a wicked grief-fog fueled by rage at a society who refuses to learn to help. Now of course I know that people turn and run from suicide like it's a wildfire carrying the plague. Still. But the young people in the valley are not having it anymore.
13 March 2012
Here I go again...
Dear Daily Sentinel
In reference to the March 9th article on the high suicide rate in Mesa County, I would like to applaud your newspaper's decision to open dialogue with the public regarding this topic. That said, I would also like to point out that responsible reporting includes using correct terminology. Instead of the word "commit", the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention suggests using the word "complete". This is because dying of suicide is not a crime. Also, the word "choose" in relation implies cogency at the time of death. Since greater than 80% of people who die of suicide have a treatable mental illness at time of death, cogency cannot be assumed. Please have your staff thoroughly review SAMHSA's guidelines regarding reporting on suicide, and also make use of AFSP's statistic sheets when writing about suicide. The only way that suicide will be reduced is if we, the general public, use words that decrease stigma and encourage sufferers and families to find help. Thank you, Erica Kitzman
For the Media: Recommendations for Reporting on Suicides