In continuation of the observance of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), advocacy group MentalHealthPH and partners bolstered their awareness campaign in creating safer spaces for the community by recognizing the vital role of media in suicide prevention. More than 600 participants from different sectors attended the two-hour orientation webinar, “Post, Pen, and Power: Engaging the Media in Suicide Prevention” on September 26, 2020.
The learning session aimed to orient the media professionals, students, and organizations on reporting suicide responsibly, highlighting help-seeking behavior, and promoting suicide prevention interventions. With the central question, “How can the media help in the prevention of suicide and in the promotion of help-seeking behavior in the community?” the webinar explored different perspectives from both media and mental health professionals at the self, society, and system levels.
At the self-level, Rissa Coronel, founder and president of Silakbo PH, shared her personal experience in posting a story of suicide and how she managed to protect her mental health when featuring news or stories about suicide. “Cultivate awareness when it’s getting bad. Know your own healthy coping mechanism. Identify what helps you so you can create a self-care plan for yourself. And finally, there is no shame in seeking help from professionals if you need it.” said Ms. Coronel.
Dr. Jason Ligot, a public health physician and an international health communication specialist, discussed the dos and donts of responsible suicide reporting in adherence to public health standards. According to Dr. Ligot, “Media reporting can have a positive effect in decreasing suicide risks by describing positive coping and overcoming adversity as well as providing educational media reports and portrayals of coping with suicidal thoughts.”
Mr. Nonoy Espina, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, elaborated on the existing protocols, best practices, and challenges of a media body or organization in reporting suicide and mental illnesses. Mr. Espina said, “It’s important to balance out misinformation and disinformation with responsible reporting. Suicide reporting is a public health issue, and responsible reporting can reduce the risk of contagion. Covering news reports about suicide should be treated as a health report, not as crime reports.”
In her closing remarks, Ms. Prescy Cuevas from the Department of Health (DOH) expressed her gratitude for the recently concluded orientation-webinar. Engaging the media for suicide prevention is aligned with the LIVE LIFE Suicide Prevention Strategy of the DOH adapted from the World Health Organization. She encouraged the community to scale up efforts, work together, and recognize how one contributes to the other and reach a commitment to collective action. She also invited the community to participate in DOH programs and events this October 2020 for the Mental Health Day with the theme, “Mental Health for All, Unifying Voices to Greater Investment and Access.”
Roy Dahildahil, Executive Director of MentalHealthPH, said that the organization plans to conduct a more in-depth workshop co-designed by different professional groups and tailored to the needs of the media institutions and journalists.
The event was live-streamed on Facebook, which garnered almost 5,000 views to date. To make it more inclusive, MentalHealthPH secured a partnership with Hub of Innovation for Inclusion (HiFi) in securing Filipino sign language interpreters. If you missed the webinar, you may visit and watch the video on the MentalHealthPH Facebook page.
For partnerships and more information about the organization, reach out to @mentahealthph social media accounts or email at [email protected]