Why does reporting suicide safely matter?

While recommendations exist to assist news and entertainment professionals in covering suicide prevention safely, little guidance has been available for those in suicide prevention and behavioral health to effectively communicate to the public about suicide. The Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging (1) outlines how individuals and organizations working in suicide prevention and behavioral health promotion can promote hope, help, and resilience, and ultimately help save lives. 

Unsafe Reporting Can Cost lives

“The research is clear: inappropriate messaging of deaths by suicide can trigger others to attempt suicide.

Your help is especially important with reporting on the death of Robin Williams, as your story will reach a wide audience, including people already at risk, who may be contemplating suicide.Word choice, phrasing, and content matters. Please take a moment to make sure your reporting is safe. You just might save a life.

I hope Williams’s death will start a thoughtful conversation about suicide and mental health. Take the opportunity to encourage readers struggling with mental health issues to seek the help they need to get well—and stay—healthy.

Please see our short guide to safe reporting. Thank you for helping to prevent suicide.” (2)

Bob Gebbia
CEO, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Do's and Don't of Media Reporting


  • Include links to treatment services, warning signs, and suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255)
  • Include stories of hope
  • Moniter comment sections to identify hurtful statements, or people expressing suicidal thoughts
  • Contact an expert on suicide to get the facts.
  • Report suicide as a health issue (2)


  • Showing videos or photos of the method or location used
  • Framing suicide in terms of success: Do not say commited suicide; do not say suicide attempts are successful or failed. Instead, say died by suicide
  • Romanticizing the death
  • Describing suicide rates as skyrocketing, and epidemic, or other strong terms
  • Publishing text from a suicide note
  • Quoting police or first responders
  • Describing a suicide as inexplicable or without warning (2)


National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (2018). Action Alliance Framework for Successful Messaging. Retrieved from
http://suicidepreventionmessaging.org/ (1)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2019). Unsafe Reporting Can Cost Lives. Retrieved from
https://afsp.org/unsafe-reporting-suicide-can-cost-lives/ (2)