The media may be interested in reporting on the person’s death. However, if the Coroner is investigating the death as a suspected suicide, legally no details about the death can be published until the inquiry is completed.
If a Coroner finds that the death was suicide, there are restrictions on what information can be published by the media. Only the person’s name, job, address and the fact that the death was self-inflicted can be reported, unless the Coroner allows more details to be published.
If anyone in the media contacts you and asks to tell your story, it is your choice whether or not you speak to them.
You may prefer not to share your personal experiences. By sharing your story with media, you may not have control over how the story is presented, and what details are shared with the public.
However for some people, sharing their story can be a way of influencing how their loved one is remembered. It may also serve to highlight the devastating impact of suicide and help other families or whānau who may be going through this experience.
If you do decide to speak to the media, there are some practical things that you can do to make this easier. These include:
- Be clear and firm. Ask reporters for their names, contact details, which media outlet they work for and the focus or angle of their article or interview. Some members of the media can be quite forceful. If you feel pressured, say you will call them back or have someone else call them.
- It can be helpful to choose a spokesperson to speak on the family or whānau’s behalf. This could be a relative or a friend who is not as closely linked to the person who has died, or someone who is able to respond calmly to questions.
- Another way of handling the media is to issue a one-off statement outlining the family or whānau’s feelings about the death and asking that your privacy be respected. This can be typed up and given to any media who contact you. Explain that this will be your only comment at this time.
- Before talking to the media, be very clear as a group about what is and what is not okay to be said publicly. Perhaps take some time to write down the story of what happened, and take out any details that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with the public. This will help you avoid saying anything you may later regret. Be aware that if the media outlet has a website, your story may be available online forever.
- You may like to read Reporting Suicide: A resource for the media, which gives advice to media about how to tell stories about suicide safely and effectively.
- Think about questions that may be asked and have answers ready. You don’t have to answer every question.
- You may ask to see what the media write or tape before it is made public, though they are under no obligation to do this. Alternatively, you could try making your story or interview conditional upon them letting you see the final product before its release. Make sure this is agreed to beforehand.
- Be aware that information, photos or film footage you let the media use may be used in the future without your permission – even years later. Anniversaries of the person’s death or their birthday can be times when articles, footage or images may reappear without warning.