Suicide is the biggest cause of death among men and women under the age of 35 in Ireland, latest figures revealed.
Statistics show 431 registered suicides in 2005, with around 6% of those recorded as copycat suicides.
Stressing a significant number of those deaths could have been prevented, the HSE today called on the media – factual and fictional – not to sensationalise someone taking their own life.
They appealed for professionals to report the facts with as little detail as possible to stop someone else carrying out the same act.
Speaking at the launch of a new set of guidelines for the portrayal of suicide in the media, the HSE’s Geoff Day, said: “We are sensing there is more reporting of suicide and we need to be cautious and careful on how we do that. It needs to be reported in a factual way but not be over-dramatic.
“Although suicide is a legitimate subject for media coverage and reportage, certain types of portrayals and reporting are potentially harmful, and can act as a catalyst to influence the behaviour of those who are already vulnerable.
“The media has an extremely important role to play in educating the public about suicide and the wider issues involved that may lead people to feel suicidal. These guidelines, outline practical measures for those in the media to refer to when dealing with this sensitive subject.”
The guidelines, published by the HSE’s National Office of Suicide Prevention, in conjunction the Samaritans and the Irish Association of Suicidology, focus on copycat deaths and reveals this imitative behaviour can follow certain coverage and portrayals of suicide in both the print and broadcast media.
It also urges the media to avoid reporting explicit details of suicide methods, prominent coverage, dramatic photographs, and implying positive results can be gained from suicide.