In the framework of the measures defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to contain and reduce suicide mortality rates, the need to improve training of professionals employed in the media sector is highlighted so as to ensure media coverage of suicide cases in line with the guidelines issued in 2017.
The objective of this study is to observe whether in Italy:
- media professionals are informed about WHO guidelines, the role they can play in suicide prevention, and their willingness to collaborate with mental health professionals to ensure better media coverage of suicide cases;
- mental health professionals are able to communicate suicide and direct the work of media professionals towards the implementation of WHO recommendations.
An online survey, hosted by the google.it platform (https://www.google.it/intl/it/forms/about/), was prepared and the link to the questionnaire was disseminated through social networks in Italy (Facebook and LinkedIn). In order to orient the selection correctly, such survey was shared in “closed professional groups” only (e.g. journalists, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.). Participants were able to join the initiative from October 2021 to March 2022 and anonymously answer questions online, on a voluntary basis. At the end of the survey, 170 people (70 media professionals and 100 mental health professionals) had successfully completed the questionnaire.
The analysis of data collected with the present study confirms that, even in Italy, knowledge of the 2017 WHO guidelines is not optimal. There is a need for greater collaboration between media and mental health professionals, although the latter do not feel ready to support an interview on the topic of suicide. Also, specific training is needed to deal more competently with this social and health issue, bringing it within the framework of WHO guidelines.
In conclusion, it is desirable to implement agreed strategies at international level, to enhance knowledge of the 2017 WHO guidelines and their uniform application worldwide. In this framework, it is necessary to identify solutions that, through a virtuous cycle of training and deployment, allow to reinforce and update the background of media and mental health professionals, facilitate their collaboration and valorise their role as “public health actors”.