Media reporting of Chester Bennington's death

The MHF is deeply saddened by the loss of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. Mr Bennington had a large and devoted…
Found in: News / News
Date: 22 August 2018
Media reporting of Chester Bennington's death

21 Jul, 2017


The Mental Health Foundation is deeply saddened by the loss of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington.

Mr Bennington had a large and devoted fanbase in New Zealand and his loss will have a huge impact on those who admired him.

As with the death of Robin Williams and Chris Cornell, when we saw national outpourings of grief, the MHF wants to once again remind the media of the connection between celebrity suicides and copycat deaths.

Already there are connections being drawn between Mr Bennington’s suicide and the recent suicide of Chris Cornell. While these connections are understandable the MHF strongly cautions you to avoid any romanticising of the two deaths (e.g. that they are now together again) and keep in mind the small but significant number of extremely vulnerable people who are in your audience.

There is a strong relationship between the way celebrity suicides are reported and an increased risk of suicide.

People in your audience who can particularly relate to Mr Bennington (e.g. through his music or his age or his personal struggles) who are already struggling are particularly at risk. Men of Mr Bennington's age are at a disproportionate risk of suicide and we urge you to keep this in mind when reporting on his death.

The likelihood of vulnerable people being affected increases when media coverage is prominent, includes details about possible causes of suicide that simplify a complex issue, profiles individuals in a way that vulnerable people might relate to, includes method and/or location and doesn’t include help-seeking information.

When Robin Williams died, we most often heard from people who wondered how they could ever hope to recover if someone as beloved and successful as Mr Williams could not. We heard this again when Chris Cornell died, and already we are hearing reports of the same reaction to Mr Bennington’s death. It’s not unusual or abnormal but we need to work together to ensure those who are in extreme distress or feeling suicidal get the help they need.

We hope you will work with us to remind those people that help is available, and where to get it.

Please tell your audience that grief for someone who they didn’t know is still grief and their feelings are real. Talk directly to those who might be feeling hopeless or suicidal after hearing of Mr Bennington’s death and remind them that others have walked in their shoes and found a way through. Tell them they are not alone, that they deserve help. Encourage them to call or text a helpline such as 1737 (more information about this new helpline below) or tell a friend, whanau member or colleague.

Please also remind your audience to keep an eye on their loved ones who might be struggling, particularly if they were fans of Mr Bennington or Mr Cornell. Encourage them to reach out and ask if they’re okay and really listen to the answer.You will be aware that because Mr Bennington died overseas then reporting is not restricted by the Coroner's Act. However, the media guidelines still apply and we encourage you to check in for advice and guidance wherever necessary.

You can find the guidelines as well as advice about reporting on suicide on our website.

When reporting on or discussing Mr Bennington's death:

Ensure your story has a suicide prevention angle

Do not report on the method by which he died

Bear in mind that his death is painful and complicated, and don't speculate about the reasons that may have led him to take his life

Keep in mind that vulnerable people are seeking out coverage, so try to reduce the prominence of stories

Carefully moderate comments

Be mindful when linking to articles from overseas media that contain details that might put vulnerable members of your audience at risk.

Include help-seeking information:

Need to talk? 1737 – free call or text any time to talk to a trained counsellor

Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Information about suicide prevention can be found on our website.

Suicide reporting guidelines (developed in partnership with New Zealand media) are also available.

Finally, reporting on and discussing suicide can be extremely difficult. Take care of yourself and your colleagues and reach out if you need help. Please get in touch if we can provide any advice or guidance.

Sophia GrahamCommunications and Marketing ManagerMental Health Foundation021 740