Nearly 50% of PR professionals have been exposed to suicide

Tue, Dec 13 2016

World’s first research on PR professionals understanding of suicide released today

Ahead of a much needed holiday break for many busy public relations and communication professionals, the PRIA National President Jenny Muir is proud that the PRIA can bring you this ground breaking research on the role PR and Communication professionals play in communicating about suicide.

“Whether you play an internal communications role supporting your team, or you work for or represent an organisation that needs to respond to suicide and mental illness, we all need support and the skills to ensure that our work is responsible and respectful.

“We are proud to work with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health on this important industry research. It recognises the integral and influential role professional communicators have around this important social and health issue, and has laid the groundwork for the PRIA members to contribute to the world’s first research on suicide impacts and understanding in our profession,” said Jenny Muir.

Jaelea Skehan, the Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health and PhD student completing the research said:

“While there has been extensive international research examining the relationship between news reporting of suicide and suicidal behaviour, forming the basis of guidelines for reporting suicide in over 30 countries, there has been little research conducted about the role of public relations professionals in communication about suicide,” she said

“With a community now more interested and engaged with suicide prevention than ever before, public relations and communication professionals are now an integral part of our suicide prevention work in Australia.”

“In a digital and fast-paced world, we rely more and more on professional communicators to help us navigate difficult and sensitive information which includes suicide.”

“Suicide is an issue that affects many people in our community and public relations professionals are no exception, with over three-quarters of the professionals’ surveyed knowing someone who died by suicide”, said Ms Skehan.

“The research also showed that about half of the public relations practitioners surveyed were exposed to suicide as part of their work, with less than 60% indicating that their workplace was aware of the impacts associated with this and provided support.”

“We need to ensure that our professional communicators have the knowledge and skills to communicate about suicide in a way that is safe, but also ensure they are supported to stay well while doing it.”

“We know that public relations professionals can be working against the clock when emotions are high. At this time of year, professionals can feel fatigued and perhaps stressed as they try to finish off the year of work before the Christmas break and resilience can be low.”

“This research, as it is released leading into Christmas is a good reminder that we must all take time out to practice self-care; to rest and recharge, to spend time with people who support us and to reach out for help if we are struggling”.


Some top tips for self-care this Christmas break include:

  1. Get enough sleep and rest. Sleep affects our physical and mental health, but can be the first thing we trade in when we get busy or stressed.
  2. Take time out for things you enjoy. Balance in life is important, so taking time out for things you enjoy can make a difference to how you think and feel.
  3. Be active and eat well. Our physical and mental health is closely linked, so adding exercise and nutritious food every day can make us feel better.
  4. Nurture relationships and connect with others. Our connection to others is what builds us up and keeps us strong.
  5. Learn to manage stress. If you have trouble winding down or managing thoughts you may find relaxation, yoga or writing your feelings down helpful.
  6. Reach out for help when you need it. Everyone needs support from time to time. Talking to a family member, a friend, your doctor or one of the many services available can make all the difference. 


Jaelea Skehan (Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health) message to PRIA members about the research. 


For more information about the research visit the Mindframe website.

If you, or someone you know is in need of support please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit


Marc Bryant, who leads the Mindframe National Media Initiative will take part in a special masterclass with a panel on experts on the subejct of Communicating when Tragedy Strikes in Sydney on Friday 10 February 2017.