Letter: The press can help prevent teen suicide

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Sir: Martin Whitfield's article ('Copycat link to girl's overdose of drugs', 30 September) is likely to lead to further copycat suicide attempts. Research in the United States indicates that a significant component in the prevention of adolescent suicide is a responsible press, which never reports the means by which an adolescent has attempted or committed suicide.

It is unfortunate that Mr Whitfield did not take notice of the relevance of Joan Senior's comment, on which he reported: 'She said the school deliberately did not release details of the pills which Assata had taken, but that they had been reported widely in the press.'

In reporting adolescent suicide or attempted suicide, the media should not romanticise the event, should not minimise any mental health problems, should not rely on ill-informed acquaintances and should never give details of the method used.

Yours sincerely


Senior Medical Officer

Health Care (Medical) Division

Department of Health

London, SE1

7 October