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Media cautioned against sensationalising suicide

By Our Staff Reporter

KOZHIKODE, SEP.10. The proactive role to be played by the media in helping prevent suicide was stressed at a discussion organised under the auspices of the Thanal Suicide Prevention Centre and the Calicut Press Club in connection with the World Suicide Prevention Day here today.

Most of the prominent speakers, including psychiatrists and social activists, cautioned the media on reporting suicide cases and sensationalising them, while journalists pointed out that suicide was newsworthy and that media had the right to report it to highlight social issues.

Adhering to the guidelines drafted by the Department of Mental Health of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in reporting suicides, giving adequate coverage of programmes involving prevention of suicide, presenting facts and suppressing misinformation in news items were some of the suggestions that cropped up at the discussion.

News reports

Dr. P.N. Suresh Kumar, director, Thanal, who presented a theme on the connection between media and suicide said that the intensity of publicity given to a suicide news reports was associated with the number of subsequent suicides.

Studies revealed that even Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werther (The Sorrows of Young Werther) and Final Exit by Derek Humphry had contributed to a number of suicides.

Reports on suicide of celebrities had increased suicide by 14 times in 2003 thus confirming copycat suicides.

Investigations revealed that persons who had committed suicides in Wayanad could have been either treated with medicines or given counselling, Dr. Suresh Kumar said.

While emphasising the genetic factor involved in triggering suicides, noted psychiatrist N. Vijayan said that attempted suicide should be considered as an illness and not as a crime. Attempted suicide was 10 times that of suicide rates.

The media should highlight positive aspects rather than harping on the negative components. A `bio-psycho autopsy' should be done by journalists before rushing ahead with a report on suicide, Dr. Vijayan said.

Alcoholism

Dr. Lalitha, representing the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Women's Wing, attributed alcoholism as one of the reasons for increasing suicide rates in the State.

Besides, families needed to be taught on money management, she said.

While appreciating the role of the media in highlighting social issues, K. Ajitha, social activist, pointed out the dangerous reporting trends of the visual media focusing on violence. Media also had a vested interest to sensationalise suicide reports, she alleged.

Workshops

The Kerala Yukthivadi Sangam president, U. Kalanathan, said that media persons should be taught how to prepare reports on suicide.

Regular workshops and symposium should be conducted by experts in the field for them.

The local bodies should come up with projects to give counselling to people at the grassroots, he suggested.

Dr. S. Santakumar, former professor and director, Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, the Consumer Protection Forum member, K.C. Ramachandran, and the former director of the Indian Institute of Spice and Research, A. Ramadas Menon, also spoke.

Dr. Roshan Bijli, Department of Psychiatry, Kozhikode Medical College was the moderator.

Earlier in the day the vice-chairman of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, U.K. Kumaran, inaugurated the programme.

The president of IMA, Kozhikode, R.N. Mahesh, presided over the function. The president of Calicut Press Club, N.P. Rajendran, offered felicitations.

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