Communicating about mental health concerns

It is important to note that within a 12-month period, one in five Australians experience mental health concerns.

Mental health concerns is a topic of public interest and when communicated or portrayed safely and responsibly, it can help to reduce the prevalence of stigma and encourage help-seeking behaviour.

Mental health concerns is a complex issue with a range of physical and emotional consequences and can be challenging to discuss accurately and responsibly.

Safe and inclusive language, considering different cultural considerations and seeking expert advice or comment are all included in the Mindframe media guidelines when communicating about or portraying mental health concerns.

The way individuals, organisations and the media communicate about mental health concerns plays a huge role in demystifying negative stereotypes.

Discussions or content that is inaccurate or sensationalised can reinforce common myths and impact significantly on people diagnosed with a mental illness, making them less likely to seek help when they need it.

Mental health concerns can be communicated about in a variety of ways, including public interest news stories about mental health care, policy directions or announcements, via marketing or communication collateral and the sharing of people's lived and living experiences of mental health concerns.

Media and communications professionals also face challenges when interviewing people or their families with lived experience of mental health concerns. Navigating this process will help to alleviate any harm or consequences to the participant and their family.

The mental health and suicide prevention sector play an important role in serving as a source of information for Australian media professionals reporting on mental health concerns.

Those working in this sector should always consider the following when communicating about mental health concerns:

  • appropriate, sector-consistent guidance on providing information on mental health and mental illness to media professionals
  • insight around the potential impact of media reporting of mental illness, based on research evidence
  • information and explanation of the different sectors within the media
  • strategies to maximise opportunities to represent mental illness appropriately in the media
  • guidance and tactics on how to respond to positive and negative reporting of mental health and mental illness
  • access to relevant reference material including facts and statistics, research, resources, help-seeking information and services.

Mindframe works to support universities, educators and students specialising in journalism and public relations to enhance tertiary curriculum understanding on responding to and communicating about mental health concerns.

Mindframe training and resources provides journalism, public relations and communication educators with tools that will assist in introducing students to the professional and ethical issues involved in reporting or communicating about mental health concerns and mental health care.

The resources have been developed with the assistance of media professionals, public relations practitioners, academics in journalism and public relations, and suicide prevention and mental health experts as well as consumer organisations with the aim to:

  • reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health concerns
  • inform appropriate reporting and communication about mental health concerns
  • minimise harm and further suicidal behaviour
  • increase help-seeking support.

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