Kent State to Host Journalism Workshop on Better Storytelling About Suicide

Reporting on suicide may cause others to take their lives by 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.

Kent State University will host one of these workshops on March 21 at 3:30 p.m. in Franklin Hall 312/314. It is presented by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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.

The workshop will offer an opportunity for those who serve the social, public and mental health needs of Kent State and other communities to connect with journalists and understand how they report and collect information. Those who are not a part of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication are encouraged to register online by March 17, 2017

Kent State recently introduced the Step Up Speak Out campaign. This campaign aims to raise awareness about mental health, including risk factors for suicide. It is a collaborative effort of Kent State University Psychological Services, University Health Services, The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, and Police Services.

“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 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.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 11:29am
UPDATED: Monday, March 13, 2017 - 3:49pm
Keri Richmond, '17