Joining the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Government in the call to collaboratively address risk factors for suicide while promoting protective factors, the Department of Health (DOH) on March 02, 2022, issued Administrative Order No. 2022-0004 stipulating guidelines for the ethical and responsible reporting of suicide in the news and broadcast media, and portrayal in films, stage, and television, as part of its efforts on suicide prevention.

Suicide remains as one of the most pressing issues in the world. In the Philippines, the suicide rate in 2019 was 2.5 per 100,000 population. Media, as a powerful means to transmit information and influence its audience, is seen as an effective tool by the WHO to responsibly report suicide, as current evidence shows there is an association between suicide content in the media and the risk of death by suicide.

“It is important that those at risk are not exposed to articles or movies that encourage or give instructions on suicide. These guidelines are one of our interventions for suicide prevention as the Department continues to develop and implement its National Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention and Control,” underscored DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

The DOH AO was developed in consultation with media practitioners, mental health professionals, the Australian Government, and WHO. This shall also provide guidance on the roles of media practitioners, government agencies, and civil society organizations in reducing the incidence of suicide in the country through responsible portrayal of suicide. The guidelines were released in support of Republic Act No. 11036 (“Mental Health Act”) Implementing Rules and Regulations.

“WHO acknowledges the crucial role traditional and new media play in preventing suicidal behaviors,” said Dr Rajendra Yadav, Acting WHO Representative to the Philippines. “We encourage media practitioners and content producers to focus on suicide prevention strategies and promote general mental health interventions instead of suicide events alone.”

“Australia and the Philippines have a shared interest in fostering good mental health and the wellbeing of Filipinos. Through Project BRAVE, we are supporting WHO and DOH to improve awareness-raising initiatives about COVID-19 and its potential impact on our mental health,” said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO.

“We recognise the important role of media practitioners on responsible reporting of mental health issues in the media. Reporting should be informed by best practices including delivering accurate and helpful information on mental health and reducing anxiety about COVID-19,” the Ambassador said.

The National Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention and Control (NSPSPC) recommends these initiatives to prevent suicide in the country. This is done through ensuring the availability and accessibility of mental health services through community-based mental health programs, promoting and mainstreaming mental health and well-being in schools, communities, and workplaces, strengthening the role of the barangay health workers and other community partners in health promotion, including mental health, and improving suicide surveillance systems to capture the true burden of suicide in the country.

If you or anyone you know is in need of emergency mental health support, you may contact the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline (0917-899-8727 / (02)7-989-8727) or a mental health professional.