Everymind, with the support of the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission), has launched a new set of guidelines aimed at improving the language used when communicating about mental health and wellbeing, mental ill-health, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders and alcohol and other drugs (AOD).
Funded by The Commission and guided by a project advisory group including members with lived experience, Our words matter: Guidelines for language use, complements the existing suite of Mindframe resources with a new focus on the use of words and language.
The guidelines are supported by a suite of supporting resources including a Glossary of terms designed to be used in conjunction with the guidelines document, quick reference guides to help researchers and service providers to apply the guidelines in their specific professional contexts, a language checklist to follow prior to sharing communications, and a series of guidance cards with specific examples of problematic language choice and advice regarding preferred words and phrasings.
The latest guidelines are available for use by those working in the media, mental health, the AOD and suicide prevention sectors, clinicians, service deliverers, and anyone seeking to communicate safely in a personal or professional manner about these themes.
Research has shown the language we use to communicate about mental health and wellbeing, mental ill-health, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders and alcohol and other drugs (AOD) can have either a positive or negative impact. Safer, more informed use of words can reduce stigma while increasing understanding and hope for others.
Language can also empower and promote the ability of individuals and communities to live with complex experiences and enact positive change.
“We have an opportunity to be more inclusive of people with diverse experiences and views, to reduce harm and stigma and to encourage more people to access and offer support through the words we choose” Everymind Director, Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM, says.
“It is important that each of us pays attention to the words we use - in our personal and professional communication and in the material we produce. What we say and how we say it can either engage or alienate others, provide support or increase harm, break down or exacerbate stigma.”
Our words matter: Guidelines for language use are founded on three principles, firstly, ‘do no harm’; secondly, ‘aim to do good’ and finally, ‘stay curious and be open to change’. With these principles in mind, the guidelines will continue to be updated to reflect the changes as language evolves, through the voices of people with lived or living experience and the latest research.
The guidelines provide best practice advice for how everyone can apply safe terms and language in our public communication that supports connection, promotes inclusion and acceptance of diverse experiences within our communities, and encourages people to seek help and offer support when it’s needed.
Our words matter: Guidelines for language use, was developed in consultation with a diverse group of stakeholders in Australia including media and other professional communicators, research experts and diverse community members.
A full video of the webinar launch event, including presentations from Dr Ruth Vine (Acting CEO of the Commission), Samuel Hockey (Youth and lived experience researcher from the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre), and Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM (Director of Everymind) is available in the player below. More detail about the guidelines and resources are covered in this FAQ resource which answers a number of questions raised during the launch event.
The new guidelines follow the launch of Images Matter: Mindframe guidelines for image use, in October last year. Read more and access the free Mindframe online image collection: mindframeimages.org.au
Mindframe is an Everymind program, supported by funding from the Australian Government under the National Suicide Prevention and Leadership and Support Program.