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Guide on Mental Health for Media Professionals

Mental Health

This guide is relevant to all individuals who write on issues involving individuals with behavioral health and developmental disabilities and raise awareness among news organizations, journalists, journalism students and professors on how to improve reporting on mental health issues.

  • Write with awareness that people with mental illness face prejudice and discrimination.
  • Ask, "Is mental illness relevant to the story?"
  • Verify statements that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime.  A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator.
  • Avoid using language that implies people with mental illness are violent.
  • In stories on mental illness and violence, provide context whenever possible.  Most people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent crimes than a person who has not been diagnosed with mental illness.
  • Use People First Language. For example, instead of calling someone “mentally ill,” the more appropriate, respectful phrase is “a person with a mental illness.”
  • Avoid using stereotypical words or phrases in describing people with mental illness.
  • Be sensitive when using photographs for stories involving mental health issues.  
  • Double-check specific symptoms of diagnoses with valid mental health resources, as necessary.
  • When possible, emphasize that treatment is available and effective, recovery happens and prevention works.  
  • When interviewing a person with a mental illness, be clear and repeat important information and give the interviewee ample time to answer the questions posed.

More information is available at mentalhealthreporting.org.

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