Guidelines for media reporting of suicide found to be cost-saving

Posted 26th September 2022 in Research news

Published on 15 September 2022, a new research paper has found that the Mindframe media guidelines for reporting on suicides are a cost saving suicide prevention intervention.

The study was led by researchers from The University of Melbourne and Monash University, with collaborators from University of Western Sydney, Everymind, The University of Newcastle, Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia. They conducted economic analyses to determine whether implementing Mindframe guidelines for media reporting of suicides provides value for money.

The results showed that the return on investment for every dollar spent applying the Mindframe guidelines was $94 over five years (based on attributing a monetary value to lives saved). The intervention was associated with a cost saving of $596M, 139 suicides prevented and 107 quality adjusted life years gained. Quality adjusted life years (QALY) is a measure that takes into account both quality and quantity of years of life.

Dr Lennart Reifels from The University of Melbourne who coordinated the study as part of the LIFEWAYS project points out that “studies examining the economic credentials of population-wide interventions are relatively rare in the suicide prevention field, but provide an important input to inform decision-making and investment alongside research evaluating program effectiveness. The encouraging findings regarding the Mindframe program will undoubtedly resonate will stakeholders in Australia and well beyond.”

Everymind, leading institute delivering best-practice mental health and suicide prevention programs, has managed and supported the Mindframe media guidelines in Australia for over 20 years. Through the guidelines, journalists are encouraged to reduce the prominence of reports of suicide, use language that is not sensationalist and refrain from providing detail about suicide methods. The guidelines also recommend providing education about suicide prevention, signposting help-seeking options, and covering stories that focus on how people with lived experience have overcome suicidal thinking.

Media guidelines for reporting of suicides are implemented in many countries as a universal suicide prevention intervention targeting whole populations. They are backed by evidence that sensationalist and prominent media reporting can lead to increases in suicide, known as suicide contagion. Guidelines have been shown to be effective in changing media reporting behaviour and reducing suicides. This study adds further evidence that they are also cost-effective and supports the ongoing investment in the implementation of these guidelines.

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