Newly published research has reaffirmed the importance of Mindframe guidelines in helping to reduce stigma after it was found that most media articles about alcohol and other drugs (AOD) focus on crime and justice.
Researchers assessed 2007 media articles published between July 2016 and June 2017 relating to AOD use.
Almost a quarter (22%) of the articles included references to law enforcement or the legal system, with the same percentage found to have portrayed AOD use “in a stigmatising way”. Almost one in three (30%) of the articles characterised AOD use as delinquent, violent or morally weak.
Further, researchers found that more than a third (38%) of all articles used alarmist or sensationalist language in reporting while just 1% of articles included help-seeking information.
The research was carried out as a collaboration between Everymind staff and researchers at the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Abuse and the University of Newcastle.
“Most media entries did not portray AOD use as a health issue (likely due to the increased proportion of crime/law enforcement-related entries) and almost none of the entries provided help-seeking information relevant to AOD use,” the authors wrote. “The final point is particularly relevant given the widespread reach and influence that many of these publications have over the general population.”
The study establishes an important baseline dataset of representative print media that can now be used to compare the impact of Mindframe guidelines and resources on media reporting since their launch and promotion.
On a positive note, the analysis identified that the majority (66%) of articles aligned with Mindframe recommendations that journalists seek expert opinion, and that just 4% glamorised AOD use or related activities.
“This study also shows that media reporting on AOD use can easily be improved through a number of ways including use of person-centred language, inclusion of multiple credible external sources, and altering the focus from a criminal lens to a health perspective,” the authors concluded.
“It is hoped that improvements to print media reporting on AOD use will ultimately result in decreased stigma, greater help-seeking behaviour, and reduced burden associated with AOD use and AOD-related disorders among the broader community.”
The research paper, Media reporting on alcohol and other drugs in Australia and the Mindframe guidelines: Baseline data was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.
Everymind works with media and other public communicators to reduce stigma through the Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs strategy to support safe, respectfully and responsible communication about AOD. Learn more here.