Year: 2022 Source: Crisis. (2022). 43(4), 340-343. SIEC No: 20220760
Background: Healthcare workers are at elevated risk for suicide; though it has yet to be studied, this risk may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. News media coverage of high-profile suicide is associated with an increased risk of subsequent suicides. No analysis has yet been published of US media practices for reporting on healthcare worker suicides during the pandemic. Aims: The researchers aimed to evaluate pandemic-era media practices by investigating adherence to best-practice suicide reporting guidelines in coverage of Dr. Lorna Breen's death. Methods: The researchers conducted a content analysis of all unique articles by top outlets reporting Dr. Breen's death between April 26 and 29, 2020, and scored them based on their adherence to the 15 best-practice suicide reporting guidelines. Results: Every media outlet violated an average of at least 5 of 15 suicide guidelines in reporting on Dr. Breen's death; some abided by as few as 2 of 15 recommended guidelines. Seven of 15 guidelines were adhered to by fewer than one third of articles. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, notably easy to include, appeared in only 75% of articles. Limitations: The researchers were limited to reviewing media coverage of one specific instance of COVID-era healthcare worker suicide, making these findings applicable as a prominent case study rather than forming a generalizable claim about suicide reporting during the pandemic or about reporting on healthcare suicides. Conclusion: These violations highlight a range of opportunities to improve suicide prevention in the media, which has a responsibility to ensure reporting does not exacerbate the risk of suicide. Improved adherence to these guidelines could reduce harm for healthcare workers during the pandemic.