Personalizes Suicide Coverage with iReport Contributions

About 33,000 Americans take their own lives each year, and journalists struggle with covering the issue. Journalists tell me they worry about the contagion effect of telling suicide stories. They also wonder if suicide should remain mostly a private story. But what if a news organization could figure out a way to allow the people closest to the pain to tell their own stories?, using iReport stories from readers, showed how suicide harms so many people, especially parents. The series uses the death of Marie Osmond's son as a launchpad but doesn't get bogged down with celebrity. I was interested to see that the suicide stories were among the site's most popular for the day.

The CNN story said the families often find support from others in online groups:

"Surviving parents say they feel a special connection to others who have lost children to suicide. 'It is such an immediate bond when you meet another person whose child took their life,' said Patricia Pedigo-Dunn, whose son Allen passed away in October 2009. Pedigo-Dunn participates in the online groups Parents of Suicide and Survivors of Suicide. Suicide 'adds another dimension to the grief,' she said.

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"Read Pedigo-Dunn's iReport

"[Diane] Kasselhut has found comfort in sharing her thoughts and feelings about her son Chris, who died September 9, with support groups in person and online.

" 'Writing about Chris and talking to others about Chris, it helps keep him alive, even though I couldn't do that,' she said.

"Online groups such as Parents of Suicide have also helped Kasselhut see she is not alone in what she thought was 'crazy' thinking, as survivors in the group have often had similar chains of thought."

The American Association of Suicidology provides lots of resources to help you report the story.

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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