Originally published in The Journal News, Sept. 16, 2015
By Julianne cuba
Colleges, and beyond, must open up about suicide and broaden access to mental health treatment
During one of my first days of journalism school, in an ethics class, I got into a civilized argument with most of my classmates.
We were broken up into small groups and given different “real-life” scenarios, then we had to decide how to report the story.
Most of us acknowledged that it is not the reporter’s responsibility to out someone’s disease, like HIV.
We also agreed that sharing someone’s past and irrelevant criminal record is not appropriate for a story about how, years later, he became a successful, local baseball coach.
But for one of the scenarios, I stood alone: Whether or not to report on a young woman’s suicide.
Most of my classmates believed the information should be kept secret; I firmly said yes, we report on her suicide.
As we would with any other news report, we share her name. We show her personality and talk about her unique qualities and achievements. We share her family members’ and friends’ tributes.
We also share her struggle with mental illness — and because mental illness should be treated as if it were any other disease, we share that she lost her battle.
I fully understand and appreciate that family and close friends have full discretion in how much they share with the media.
But it does need to be addressed, at some point. It needs to be done respectfully, poignantly.