Saturday, May 31, 2014

i will show you the way to the rest of my sins.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Erimentha and I am writing to you after some concerns with Thursday and Friday's issues of the mX newspaper in Melbourne.

I am an avid reader of the mX newspaper and was shocked to see some of the offensive and disrespectful language used surrounding suicide and mental illness over the past few days. In particular, the article on Thursday called ‘COFFIN BAN: Losing the plot horror’ in which the term “killing themselves” was used, as well as “committed suicide” - both problematic and inadvisable terms as outlined in the Australian Government Department of Health regulations. This seemed to be in direct contrast to an article on the national Stress Down day featured on page 2, which urged “anyone with personal problems to phone Lifeline”. Why was the same message not included in reference to actual reports of suicide? And why were these reports trivialised by witty captions or (perhaps even more shockingly) descriptive means and methods of suicide?

I was already planning to write to the mX team when I picked up the newspaper on Friday and read another article which deeply affected me. The title was ‘COPS ACCUSED: Girls suicide after rape’ and once again, outlined means and methods of suicide: “found hanging from a tree in India” and also repetitively used the term ‘rape’ and ‘hanging’ throughout the article. More information on the guidelines mentioned above can be found here. I recommend passing these guidelines throughout the office to avoid any future breaches of this nature. Furthermore, an understanding of the cultural context in which both the aforementioned events occurred is vital - suicide is viewed completely differently in both China and India and it is culturally insensitive to report these events in a blasé or clinical manner when readers may personally identify with these cultures.

As a suicide survivor myself, I was extremely hurt and disheartened by mX’s coverage of both these issues and their lack of understanding of trauma and mental illness, and the correct reporting procedures surrounding these tragic deaths. I would sincerely appreciate a formal response from your team outlining some steps and plans for the future when reporting instances such as the ones mentioned above, and also perhaps a general warning for those who have experienced trauma, mental illness, etc., about the type of content an article will feature before a headline such as ‘Girls suicide after rape’ is boldly printed in plain sight.

Yours sincerely,