HHS session on covering suicide described as new effort to engage reporters

Felice J. Freyer

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

Mark Weber

The Department of Health and Human Services is sponsoring a seminar for reporters on covering suicide on Tuesday, in what the lead organizer described as an effort by HHS media officials to engage with journalists in new ways.

Mark Weber, the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said that media officials often interact with reporters in what he called “ATM transactions” – communicating only when one needs something from the other.

“We want to build the relationship and do it in constructive ways, to help the public get information,” he said.

The session will feature three journalists and three suicide experts, along with Weber, who is an executive committee member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, co-sponsor of the seminar.

The meeting is intended to be a peer-to-peer discussion of “how reporters can be part of the solution in helping people find ways to seek help versus sensationalizing the death or glorifying the person who died by suicide,” Weber said.

HHS has not sponsored an event like this in memory, he said, and the agency may offer such educational programs regularly.

The seminar will be held 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at HHS headquarters in Washington, D.C., open as space permits to those who RSVP to Carla.Daniels@HHS.Gov.

Those who can’t attend can follow the livestream at HHS.gov/Live or can listen in by calling 888-989-3095 Passcode 3684857. A recording of the session will also be made available afterward.

More information is available here.

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