Young Suicide – the facts
Suicide is the main cause of death in young people under the age of 35 in
the UK.
Every year, across the UK, more than 1,600 young people under the
age of 35 take their own lives.
Between the ages of 15 and 24 the number is 600 to 800, equivalent
to the population of a small secondary school.
Three quarters of them are boys or young men.
In England and Wales alone around 24,000 attempted suicides are
made by 10 to 19 year olds – one every 20 minutes.
Most suicides have been planned beforehand.
75% of young suicides were unknown to mental health services.
Many young people who take their own lives are not socially isolated,
they often appear to be the life and soul of the party.
Research shows that with appropriate early intervention and support
suicide by young people can be prevented.
Suicide is not a criminal act
When reporting suicide we urge you not use the term ‘committed suicide’.
Changes made in the Suicide Act of 1961 decriminalised the act of suicide
in the UK. The word ‘commit’ treats it as it were still a crime, which
perpetuates the stigma around suicide and is offensive to families and
Reporting suicide
When reporting suicide please consider, not only the grief of family and
friends of the deceased, but other vulnerable young people who may be
feeling worthless and not coping with life at that time and for whom
explicit descriptions of suicide method could offer a life escape route. It is
well known that insensitive media reporting of suicide can prompt copycat
cases. Evidence about the potential for copycat suicides is strong.
Codes of Practice
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code - extracts
1.7(i) Suicide and Suicide Attempts: the Risk of Imitation
Common sense dictates that the subject of suicide be handled with care
and discretion, particularly in popular drama serials. There should be no
more detailed demonstration of the means or method of suicide than is
justified by the context, scheduling and likely audience for the
1.13 Dangerous behaviour, or the portrayal of dangerous
behaviour, that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a
manner that is harmful:
must not be featured in programmes made primarily for children
unless there is strong editorial justification;
must not be broadcast before the watershed, or when children are
particularly likely to be listening, unless there is editorial
Section 2: Harm and Offence
Violence, dangerous behaviour and suicide:
2.4 - Programmes must not include material (whether in individual
programmes or in programmes taken together) which, taking into account
the context, condones or glamorises violent, dangerous or seriously
antisocial behaviour and is likely to encourage others to copy such
2.5 Methods of suicide and self-harm must not be included in
programmes except where they are editorially justified and are also
justified by the context.
Visit OFCOM for the full Code
Editors’ Code of Practice - extracts
Clause 5:
5i: In cases involving grief or shock, enquiries must be carried out and
approaches made with sympathy and discretion. Publication must be
handled sensitively at such times, but this should not be interpreted as
restricting the right to reporting judicial proceedings.
5ii: When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail
about the method used.
Visit The Independent Press Standards Organisation for the full Code.
Our Guidance
When reporting suicide and self harm please avoid 
High profile (eg front page) positioning of suicide news.
Bold and dramatic headlines such as ‘suicide contagion’, ‘suicide
drama’, ‘suicide hot spot’.
Detail of suicide method used, especially explicit descriptions eg names
of pills or chemicals taken, types of ligature used.
Naming and showing locations and means such as railway lines,
bridges, tall buildings or cliffs.
Naming social media, internet sites and chat rooms that promote
Speculating about the reason or ‘trigger’ for the suicide; there is never
only one reason why a young person ends their life. Contributing
factors are complex and can include individual risk, current life events
and surrounding social situations.
Making the deceased appear heroic or brave or that the suicide was a
solution to a problem.
Romanticising suicides, linking suicide to a particular ‘cult’.
Using large photographs of the deceased, especially of pretty young
women, which can also romanticise suicide and encourage viral social
media distribution.
Endorsing myths around suicide.
Excessive, dramatic, sensational headlines and reporting.
And please do –
Include references to our helpline services and other support groups.
Be sensitive to the grief and feelings of bereaved family and friends
who are often vulnerable to taking their own lives.
What can PAPYRUS offer you as a media resource?
Interviews/comment on …
Young suicide statistics.
Current concerns of young people contacting our helpline services.
Indicators that a young person could be feeling suicidal – for parents,
friends, teachers and tutors, work colleagues. What to watch out for.
Reasons why young people kill themselves – the often complex mix.
Vulnerable times – leaving home, starting university, starting a job,
exams, bullying, relationship breakdown.
Fundraising ‘heroes’ - unusual escapades, often with a background of
moving personal experience of suicide.
Case studies – parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, young friends,
teachers and tutors, work colleagues.
Case studies – suicide survivors.
Case studies – PAPYRUS suicide prevention training with colleges, local
authority and business groups.
Our team can comment on – for example:
The need for everyone to be aware that children and young people can
suffer from mental distress and have suicidal thoughts.
The need for communication from an early age; talking through
problems and feelings is important.
The need for any mention of feeling suicidal should be taken seriously
and advice sought quickly. Early intervention is essential – family and
friends should persist in seeking help for the young person.
The need for crisis intervention for suicidal young people.
Better access to/more funding for psychiatric services for child and
adolescent psychiatry and 16-24 year olds.
The role of education in preparing young people for understanding and
coping with emotional distress/mental illness.
The need for young suicidal people found in an emergency, especially
at night, to be kept in a safe place – not a prison cell when they have
committed no crime.
The need for coroners’ recording to be reviewed in order that the real
extend of young suicide in the UK is uncovered.
When boundaries of patient confidentiality can put a young person’s
mental safety at risk.
We also offer:
Guidance to journalists seeking opinion on the boundaries.
Review/comment on documentary, film and TV narrative scripts and
‘treatments’ relative to the portrayal of suicide.
Support at viewings of very sensitive material where suicide content
could upset audiences.
Above all, we are always willing to talk through your ideas and offer how
we might support your editorials or programmes.
Rosemary Vaux
PAPYRUS press office
direct line: 020 8943 5343 mobile 07792 72 62 41