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Public editor: In wake of Amanda Todd’s death, how to cover suicides with care

Amanda Todd Facebook photo.

Like most news organizations, The Globe and Mail strives to show great care and sensitivity when covering suicides. Generally, we do not report on suicides unless there is true news value to it. The very sad case of Amanda Todd, the British Columbia teen who committed suicide last week after being bullied, was such an instance because she first made news with her own courageous YouTube video describing how she was cyber-bullied to the point of suicide attempts.

The coverage by The Globe and Mail has been sensitive and complete from the reaction at her school and throughout the country, to coverage of vigils to readers' stories and a brave article by The Globe's Carly Weeks on her own experience being bullied by classmates while many stood by silently. (Here is a video with Carly discussing the issue.)

The coverage has focused on Amanda's death but also on the two issues of bullying and mental health concerns. On both issues, the media can and has done a good job in promoting public awareness and better understanding. Included in Carly's article are tips from BullyingCanada co-executive director Katie Neu on what kids, parents and teachers can do to combat this.

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When the news was first reported last week, Mason Wright, The Globe's digital editor for B.C., did some research and forwarded this link to our British Columbia bureau. It includes very helpful suggestions on how to cover suicides and it is worth remembering here. The recommendations come from a group of international suicide prevention groups and Associated Press Managing Editors.

It offers suggestions on how to be respectful in the words we choose and to promote awareness while avoiding terms which might encourage copycat suicides. It also includes suggestions for social media and message boards.

You can reach me at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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