Alexander McQueen biography criticised for containing graphic details of his suicide

Samaritans' guidelines say: "Vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died"

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The Independent Culture

Book publishers could be asked to abide by Samaritans' guidelines for reporting suicide, following the publication of a biography of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen which details his suicide in graphic detail.

Gods and Kings by Dana Thomas, a joint biography of McQueen, who hanged himself five years ago, and fellow designer John Galliano, contains a detailed description of the method McQueen used to kill himself at his Mayfair flat, and of the bloody scene encountered by the housekeeper who discovered his body.

The Samaritans' media guidelines for reporting suicide state: “Details of suicide methods have been shown to prompt vulnerable individuals to imitate suicidal behaviour. Care should be taken when giving any detail of a suicide method.”

The guidelines add: “Vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died, or with the circumstances in which a person took their own life.”

However Thomas, a contributing editor of the New York Times Style magazine, who worked as a model before writing about fashion, and Allen Lane, the Penguin-owned publisher of Gods and Kings, are not required to abide by the guidelines.

The Samaritans declined to comment on the content of the book. However a spokesman said: “Our editorial code is widely adhered to by the media. We have a future plan to look at other areas where the code does not currently reach, like book publishers.”

The organisation expressed concern about publications which contain detailed depictions of suicide.

Thomas’ book, subtitled “The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano”, has been timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of McQueen’s suicide and a major Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition of his work.

A review in The Independent called the gossipy book “tasteless” and criticised its “vengeful, spiteful tone”.

Another biography of McQueen, by British journalist Andrew Wilson, published next week, contains equally lurid details of the designer’s sex life and drug use.

Anyone in need of confidential support can contact the Samaritans in the UK 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90.