Portrayal of people living with mental illness and mental health issues in Aotearoa.
These guidelines have been developed as part of the Nōku te Ao: Like Minds programme which works to end prejudice and discrimination against people with experience of mental distress.
One in five New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem this year, and more than half of us will go through distress or mental illness at some point in our lives.
Stories we tell ourselves and others matter. Journalists and editors hold great power and can influence public opinion about people with mental illness in positive and negative ways.
These guidelines will support people working in the media to report on mental illness and mental health issues safely, accurately, and respectfully.
The guidelines were created in collaboration with media and mental health consumer representatives, and informed by evidence-based practice.
Reporting and portrayal of suicide
Media guidelines checklist
The law and suicide reporting
The Coroner’s Amendment Act 2016 – What does it mean for New Zealand media?
To help protect vulnerable people there are some restrictions in New Zealand on what can be made public about a suicide or suspected suicide. These are set out in Section 71 of the Coroners Act 2006. The Act was amended in 2016 to clarify the restrictions.
Unless you have an exemption from the chief coroner, you can’t make public:
- the method or suspected method of the death
- any detail (like the place of death) that might suggest the method or suspected method of the death
- a description of the death as a suicide before the coroner has released their findings and stated the death was a suicide (although the death can be described as a suspected suicide before then).
‘Making public’ doesn’t just mean news reports and other media – it includes things like public posts on Facebook too.
Individuals and media may apply to the chief coroner for an exemption to these restrictions.
Please note: if a death occurred before 22 July 2016, only the person’s name and age is about to be published before the coroner releases their finding. If a coroner finds the person did take their own life, only the person’s name, address, occupation and that their death was a suicide may be published.
Sometimes, the coroner will release more information if it’s in the public interest.