Suicide is not something most people want to engage with or talk about, and this is why the subject has become taboo. As a public student journalist program, it’s important that we have access to information needed to write about campus suicide deaths just as we do for other campus deaths.
With that said, we understand that the reporting process needs to be done carefully and follow certain guidelines just as any other death. There is no reason to run away from the topic because it is touchy; we need to speak about it to bring awareness and celebrate the individual’s life.
Our job is to highlight everything going on at Dixie State University. We want to be as transparent as we can with all the work we are producing to ensure everyone is aware of what is going on.
Brushing a campus suicide death under the rug and not mentioning it to the public allows for the heavy topic to become more taboo. The public will find out about it through the grapevine anyway, so it might as well be spoken about openly to discount any false information and avoid continuing the stigma around suicide. Avoiding the topic can also create more controversy since the public may wonder why it was never publicly announced.
Suicide is a real thing that many individuals deal with and it is the 10th leading cause of death in America, according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. This is the reason suicide needs to be talked about more; it is important to speak out about the subject to bring more awareness to it. That way, it can become less taboo of a topic.
Bringing attention to suicide brings awareness to it. If a campus death is just dismissed and not brought to the attention of the public, that could be hurtful to family and friends of the individual who passed away.
According to Suicide Prevention Lifeline, addressing the topic is one way to prevent future instances. When more attention is brought to the topic, the university has the opportunity to direct students who may be having similar feelings to the university’s mental health resources, such as the Booth Wellness Center. The university can also suggest speaking with family or friends for support instead of keeping these feelings inside.
We know there are things that should not be covered, such as the details of how the suicide happened, and the approach needs to be done carefully. It is understandable that reporters need to be courteous to the family of the deceased individual because it is difficult for them to be spoken to and interviewed so soon after.
It is also vital to point out that the manner in which suicide is discussed impacts how the public responds to it. Forms of entertainment media that incorporate suicides into their storylines tend to romanticize or glorify suicide, but reporting about the incident is a way to bring awareness to mental illness and may help others who are having suicidal thoughts; it can show them that it’s important to seek the help they need.
DSU has the responsibility of addressing every death, no matter the cause. The university needs to have an explicit protocol for addressing campus suicides. The administration should make an effort to send out an email to faculty, staff and students informing them about the incident, just like they often do with other campus deaths.