Actor's suicide coverage under fire in Norway
The handling of actor Robin Williams's death by the international press has provoked harsh criticism from top media players and health professionals in Norway on Thursday.
Head of the Norwegian Press Association, Kjersti Løken Stavrum, expressed her horror at how the media is wallowing in the details around Robin Williams's death.
Løken Stavrum said to TV2: “This is at best inconsiderate, and at the worst only speculative.”
On Tuesday evening, California's police released details of the star's suicide at a press conference.
She commented: “In the press one should be extremely careful when there's a suicide because there are many considerations to take. One should in particular be careful about revealing the method, since research shows that it can have a contaminating effect.”
“Research also shows that it's not the review of the phenomenon itself and problems in society that could give a contaminating effect, but the method. We should still be very careful about that.”
Each year, 500 Norwegians take their own lives. On a global scale, the number is closer to a million, according to World Health Organization figures.
Theologian and relationship therapist, Hilde Sællmann thinks it is right not to silence the issue of suicide in the media. However, she is still horrified by how the accounts of Williams's death have gotten out of hand.
She said: “We know that suicide is especially a problem for young men. Imagine how many youths who have held Williams as an idol. I think with horror on how this story is idolised.”
Media around the world has until now been careful writing about suicide, but now that social media is taking over, things are out of control.
Løken Stavrum says: “This may be a good example on why we as media are following established press ethics and have knowledge and good reflexes when it comes to publishing.”
The Norwegian Press Association has their own “Guide for Review of Suicide in Media”, which also includes advice from the World Health Organization.
There are several examples of situations where a story may be appropriate. This could be cases where the individual taking their life is known to the public and where the suicide has social consequences.