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Home / India News / Press council adopts norms over covering suicide, mental illness

Press council adopts norms over covering suicide, mental illness

Apart from the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) also has guidelines on reporting of suicide cases and presentation of reports.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2019 00:18 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
New Delhi
The Press Council of India has adopted norms for reporting on issues pertaining to mental illness and suicide. (Representative Image)
The Press Council of India has adopted norms for reporting on issues pertaining to mental illness and suicide. (Representative Image)(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Press Council of India has adopted norms for reporting on issues pertaining to mental illness and suicide, prohibiting use of photograph or any other information of a person undergoing treatment for mental illness without their consent, in a circular issued on Friday.

“In pursuance of section 24(1) of Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 relating to publication/reporting of the new related to mental illnesses, the council has adopted norm… the media shall not publish photograph or any other information in respect of person undergoing treatment at mental health establishment without the consent of the person with mental illness,” the release from the Press Council of India read.

Apart from the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) also has guidelines on reporting of suicide cases and presentation of reports.

Among the norms that need to be strictly followed include not placing stories about suicide prominently and unduly repeating such stories; not to use language that sensationalises or normalizes suicide or present it as a constructive solution to a problem; not describing explicitly the method used; not using sensational headlines and no use of video footage, social media links etc.

The government’s Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, specifically highlights the role of media in reporting suicide cases or on people suffering from any kind of mental illnesses.

Experts working in the field of mental healthcare welcome the move.

“It will work immensely at three different levels: first, in turning people sensitive towards mental health, secondly, it will help family and friends of the victim in coping better, and will benefit those people who are in the grey zone because they are vulnerable,” says Dr Nimesh Desai, director, Delhi government-run Institute of Human Behviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS).

Dr Rajesh Sagar, professor, department of psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, says, “There is a trend observed world over that people who are susceptible to committing suicide tend to get influenced by such reports, which is why one needs to be extremely careful while reporting on such incidents. There must be absolutely no glorification of such incidents.”

The adoption of rules by the PCI means any violation can be brought to the notice of the council and it will act on the complaint, including complaints from readers.

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