Communicating about mental ill-health

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

Mental ill-health 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 ill-health 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 ill-health.

The way individuals, organisations and the media communicate about mental ill-health 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 ill-health 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 lived experience of mental ill-health.

Media and communications professionals also face challenges when interviewing people or their families with lived experience of mental ill-health. 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 ill-health.

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

  • 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 ill-health.

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 ill-health 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 ill-health
  • inform appropriate reporting and communication about mental ill-health
  • minimise harm and copycat behaviour
  • increase help-seeking support.

More about "Communicating about mental ill-health"