Everymind has today launched a new set of guidelines aimed at reducing the use of potentially stigmatising imagery in news and other public communication about mental ill-health, suicide and alcohol and other drugs (AOD).
Funded by the National Mental Health Commission (The Commission), Images matter: Mindframe guidelines for image use complement the existing suite of Mindframe resources designed to support safe media reporting and public communication.
The guidelines are backed by a range of resources including a purpose-built, searchable online image collection of royalty-free images available for use by those working in the media, mental health and suicide prevention sectors, as well as anyone else seeking to communicate safely about mental ill-health, suicide and AOD.
Research has shown that some images can be harmful, with the potential to increase suicidal behaviour, to reinforce stereotypes or to contribute to stigma and discrimination.
“The way we communicate about mental ill-health, suicide and AOD can have either a positive or negative impact on a person’s life, and that includes the images we use with that dialogue,” Everymind Director, Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM, says.
“Images matter: Mindframe guidelines for image use is a practical, research-informed, and user-friendly resource that seeks to inform, support and empower people in selecting and using images in ways that minimise stigma and harm and maximise diversity of representation.”
Dr Skehan says implementation of the new guidelines into practice, especially by those communicating regularly about these themes, will help to educate the public, break down misinformation and promote help-seeking, and help-offering behaviour.
The Mindframe online image collection, which will be expanded over time, features an array of high-quality professional photographs commissioned by Everymind.
The images focus on themes including hope, support and recovery that, when given prominence in communications, can be beneficial to those with lived or living experience of mental ill-health, suicide or suicidality, and those who use AOD.
Commission CEO, Christine Morgan, says it has been shown that people are more likely to believe something to be true if it is paired with a photograph or moving imagery.
“A quick search of mental ill-health or a related term on the internet will result in millions of images that associate the issue with darkness, pain and sometimes violence,” Ms Morgan says.
“This is a stereotypical and stigmatising way to portray mental ill-health… modern communicators and those charged with representing issues relating to mental ill-health, distress, trauma and suicide, as well as AOD issues, must be disciplined, purposeful and careful in how they use images.”
“Everyone must play a role in the responsible portrayal and representation of experiences of mental ill-health in pictures; in our homes, across our community, workplaces, education and social settings.”
The new guidelines and online image collection have been developed in consultation with a diverse range of stakeholders in Australia. This includes people with lived experience of mental ill-health, suicide and AOD, media and other professional communicators, research experts and broad cross-section of community members.
View and learn more about Images Matter: Mindframe guidelines for image use and supporting resources at https://bit.ly/3rA5owV
Mindframe is an Everymind program, supported by funding from the Australian Government under the National Suicide Prevention and Leadership Program.