Covering Suicide

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It’s been one week since Parrish acting police chief Sonny Sorrell committed suicide near a granite memorial to slain police officers in downtown Birmingham. News coverage was full of accounts of the suicide and that of a woman found hanging under a bridge in northern Alabama. Suicide is a very tricky thing for journalists to cover — and mental health professionals say if it’s not covered well a lot of harm can result. In the latest installment of our Making Sense of Mental Health series, reporter Francesca Rosko talks with Lisa Hermes of the Birmingham Crisis Center.

Jenn Burleson-MacKay knows first hand the difficulty of covering suicide. She teaches reporting classes at the University of Alabama and several years ago, as a reporter in Virginia, she had to cover the suicide of a teenage girl named Galen. The story made national news because a man who sold drugs to Galen was charged with murder.