Journalism workshop focuses on better storytelling about suicide

Media coverage about suicide may be a factor in others’ decisions to take their lives by suicide.

suicide
That’s the premise behind a series of six workshops around Ohio that will teach campus and professional journalists the strategies and language they should use to report suicides in an informative, accurate and meaningful way to better serve their communities.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults ages 15-34.

“We have known for a long time that the media’s coverage of suicide influences rates of suicide in a community,” said John Ackerman, workshop trainer, clinical psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research. “Any community serious about reducing suicides needs to partner with journalists. I find that journalists and suicide prevention advocates have similar goals of informing the public, telling stories that matter and providing a way forward for those in crisis.”

“Journalists are taught to not get involved in the stories they cover — to just report the facts,” said Nerissa Young, workshop trainer and lecturer in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. “However, the role of journalism is to be a watchdog to move society toward a better end for everyone. Suicide is not like any other kind of death, so those stories should be more than a note on the crime blotter or a news brief. Suicide is a public health issue. Helping reporters do a better job on this topic is the same as a story detailing heart disease and how a person can recognize symptoms and get appropriate treatment.”

Ackerman said, “I hope it becomes clear that responsible suicide reporting is not limiting, but rather it opens doors to telling rich and meaningful stories.”

The fourth workshop will be at The Ohio State University on April 4 at 5:15 p.m. in Room L045 at The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, 460 W. 10th Ave.

There is no fee to attend and preregistration is not required.

Parking will be available at South Cannon Garage, 1640 Cannon Drive. It is presented by The Ohio State University chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. Snacks will be provided.

The workshop is a collaboration among the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

For more information contact Nerissa Young, lecturer, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, at youngn2@ohio.edu or 540-599-7472.

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