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DOH conducts 'Mindful Media' pilot capacity development sessions

DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire joins government communicators at the Mindful Media capacity development session on the responsible and ethical reporting of suicide in media, audiovisuals and films on 25 April 2023. The pilot sessions were supported by the World Health Organization and the Australian Government. © WHO Philippines (Photo credit WHO PH)

QUEZON CITY, (PIA) --The Department of Health (DOH) conducted a series of Mindful Media pilot capacity development sessions which aim to equip around 50 communicators, storytellers, and media support and monitoring groups with the skills and tools for responsible reporting of suicide in the country.

The Mindful Media sessions focused on the three central principles for the ethical reporting and portrayal of suicide in the media. These include respect (promoting and respecting life), responsibility (preventing further harm), and care (promoting healing and support for sources, audiences, practitioners, and organizations.)

“Mental health remains to be a priority in the country, but it is also important to recognize the small wins the country has achieved in realizing the objectives of the Mental Health Act. To fully effectuate its provisions, the DOH seeks guidance from other allied institutions to promote better mental health settings in different communities,” said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.  

“We would like to express our gratitude to the Australian Government and WHO for continuing to push the envelope in making Filipino feel the Universal Health Care in the country. Moreover, we would like to thank all communicators, storytellers, media support, and monitoring groups, for aiding the DOH in relaying factual information to everyone. Indeed, we will not stop until mental health is improved in all life cycles in the country,” she added.

Mr Jason Roque, DOH Communication Office’s Officer-in-Charge Chief, elaborated on the DOH’s Administrative Order (AO) 2022-0004 on the Guidelines for Responsible and Ethical Portrayal of Suicide in Media, Audiovisuals, and Films. (Photo credit WHO PH)
Members of media regulatory bodies discussed their experiences, challenges, and insights in mental health reportage. (Photo credit: WHO PH)

With the support of the Australian Government and WHO through Project BRAVE (Building COVID-safe Responses and Voices for Equity), the DOH affirms the basic rights to every Filipino to appropriate mental health support and interventions.   

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu PSM said “Australia recognizes the value of addressing the mental health concerns of the Filipino people that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to strengthen our partnerships with DOH, WHO, and other UN agencies through Project BRAVE, to deliver mental health services to communities – especially to women, children and adolescents – through capacity-building and development initiatives.”

Representatives from public and private media organizations, DOH media partners, and regulatory bodies discussed best practices for reporting on suicide incidents, including respecting one’s data privacy, eliminating graphic details and focusing only on factual information, using non-judgmental language, and providing trigger warnings and helpful information with every story. Mental health experts also stressed the importance of taking a suicide-prevention approach to avoid copycat incidents.

Given that suicide remains one of the most pressing health issues in the world, and evidence shows that media portrayal and reportage can contribute to preventing suicide risks, in March 2022, DOH released Administrative Order (AO) 2022-0004 on the Guidelines for Responsible and Ethical Portrayal of Suicide in Media, Audiovisuals, and Films. The AO outlines concrete actions to encourage responsible reporting and portrayal and establish mechanisms to gain feedback to prevent suicide and further harm due to unethical coverage. 

Furthermore, the WHO Mental Health Report 2022 states that globally, one in every 100 deaths is by suicide, and it is the leading cause of death among adolescents. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) found that the suicide rate in 2020 increased by 57.3% from the previous year (4,892 individuals), with the highest numbers coming from the 15 to 29 age groups.

“Suicide is preventable with timely, evidence-based, and often low-cost interventions. Our vision is a world where death by suicide is no longer a leading cause of death and where people who are attempting or thinking about suicide feel comfortable seeking help which is provided capably and respectfully to all. We need a Mindful Media environment to reach our goals to prevent suicide and suicide attempts,” said Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, WHO Representative to the Philippines. 

The DOH, through the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), has a national crisis hotline to assist people with mental health concerns. The 1553 hotline is a Luzon-wide, toll-free landline number. Their Globe and TM numbers are 0917-899-8727, 0966-351-4518, and 0908-639-2672 for Smart and Sun subscribers. 

About the Author

Susan De Leon

Assistant Regional Head

National Capital Region

IO 3

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