Top 10 Guidelines for Media re: Mental illness
- Always include details of further sources of information and advice when reporting on mental illness
This can be a lifeline for people in distress and an aid for carers in finding out more information. Where possible use a 24 hour, 7 days a week service that has quality assured helpline information (for contact information see www.headline.ie)
- Use the correct and accepted terminology and avoid language that might create public fear, myth, bigotry and distress
Only use the correct medical terminology to describe someone’s mental illness and only if there has been a medical diagnosis.
- Avoid making a link between mental illness and violence – Using language like this helps perpetuate the myth that all people living with mental illness are violent. It has been proven that mental illness is not a future predictor of violence unless it is linked with substance abuse.
- Avoid making a link between schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.
Multiple personality disorder is a rare mental illness and is often confused with schizophrenia but it is a different and separate condition. Schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personality disorder or split personalities. Misusing schizophrenia to imply change can lead to further misunderstanding of schizophrenia and cause distress to people with schizophrenia and their families.
- Never encourage people to change or stop their medication without medical supervision.
This can have serious medical implications and cause huge distress and worry to people on medication and their families.
- Is it relevant to the story to mention a mental health condition
Not everyone wishes to have their mental illness discussed in public so it is important to consider the implications for the person and their family before reporting on a mental illness.
- Include comments from a mental healthcare professional, an individual living with mental illness, or an organisation specialising in mental health issues.
This will ensure that the reporting is accurate and balanced.
- Could a case study of someone living with a similar condition help to explain and give context to the story
Getting an interview from someone who has recovered from their illness or who is in a positive and healthy emotional state can give real context and insight to a story.
- Expose the common myths
Mental illnesses are very complex and it is important to expose any myths surrounding them.
- Consider the images and the headline, question if they are likely to cause offence
Negative images can add to the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding mental illness.