Battling Despair: Journey from Darkness to Hope

Mental Health and Responsible Media Reporting on Suicide

In a world where mental health struggles often remain hidden, Arsalan's story sheds light on the importance of early intervention and effective communication (name changed). The escalating concerns over his well-being, marked by sleepless nights, waning interests, and alarming mood swings, unveiled a deeper struggle with Major Depressive Episode. A candid conversation with his vigilant older brother and timely professional help through the 24/7 TELE-MANAS mental health helpline became the pivotal turning point in Arsalan's life, leading him from the brink of self-harm to a place of renewed hope.

Unfortunately, Arsalan's battle isn't unique. In India, a nation grappling with a staggering suicide rate, especially among young people aged 15-29, the urgency of addressing this public health crisis becomes evident. The Lancet's estimate of approximately 2,50,000 suicide-related deaths in 2022 alone underscores the gravity of the situation. The distressing reality prompts a closer examination of media's role in shaping attitudes and influencing behaviors surrounding this critical issue.

Responsible media reporting plays a crucial role in suicide prevention, steering away from glamourization, sensationalism, and normalization. Sensitivity dictates that media avoid explicit details of the method, location, or contents of suicide notes. Such stories shouldn't dominate front pages, nor should they be reiterated. The use of graphic content or photos should be avoided, respecting the privacy of those affected. Language is a powerful tool; hence, the phrase "committed suicide" should give way to more compassionate alternatives like "took their own life" or "died by suicide."

The complexity of factors contributing to suicides calls for nuanced reporting, steering clear of oversimplification. Celebrity suicides warrant particularly cautious handling due to the phenomenon of copycat suicides. In these instances, the focus should be on celebrating the positive contributions and achievements of the celebrity, featuring images from happier times.

Health reporters, rather than crime reporters, are better equipped to sensitively handle such stories. Accuracy is paramount, with facts and statistics verified from reliable sources. If the cause of death remains uncertain, it is prudent to state "cause of death not known" rather than speculating.

Ultimately, media's narrative should shift toward portraying suicide as a preventable tragedy. Highlighting available support resources such as helplines and clinics empowers communities to confront this issue proactively. Framing suicidal thoughts as transient and manageable encourages individuals to seek help. Stories of resilience and triumph over suicidal impulses serve as beacons of hope, fostering the belief that with proper support, a brighter future is possible.

The author is faculty at Institute of Mental Health as Neurosciences Srinagar

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir