Helpful Information for Journalists
HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR JOURNALISTS
Resources for Media and Journalists
We support journalists and their reporting by providing well-researched guidance on covering mental health topics. Please review the library of resources provided here.
Reporters seeking additional information, or mental health subject matter experts, should send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Guidelines for Journalists
Responsible reporting on suicide has the power to save lives. How you shape a story will minimize suicide contagion for vulnerable individuals and increase awareness of this major public health issue.
Ohio Suicide Reporting Guidelines
Issued by Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, OhioMHAS
Mental Health Reporting
Journalism Resource Guide on Behavioral Health
Issued by The Carter Center and Emory University
Includes guidance for reporting on both mental health and substance use.
Guide for Reporting on Mental Illness
Issued by The University of Washington and Harris and Smith Public Affairs
Guidelines for Reporting on Violence and Mental Illness
The majority of people who live with a mental health condition are non-violent. Research shows that the manner in which media reports on mass shootings or other violence can contribute to contagion (copycat behavior). Responsible reporting can educate the public and reduce the risk of future violence.
Mindset Reporting on Mental Health
Developed for Canadian journalists, with insights to questions like “Why is stigma an issue for journalists?”
TEAM Up of the Entertainment Industries Council offers interview tips, story ideas and sample news articles to support reporters covering mental health and suicide. A style guide is a handy desktop reference on language use and practices.
Need background information, statistics, research, or infographics?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers background information, research, infographics and statistics, and other useful information for journalists covering mental health.
CHECKLIST FOR JOURNALISTS
Before submitting your story, did you consider these three important questions?:
- Is mental illness or substance use relevant to the story?
If it is not meaningfully linked to the story, there is no need to mention it. Avoid speculation and the generalized belief that behavioral health conditions explain unusual acts or behavior.
- What is your source for the mental illness and substance use diagnosis? If someone’s mental and substance use disorder is relevant, make sure your source is authorized to share health information about the person, and the person’s lived experience, and that the information is accurate.
- What is the most accurate language to use?
Describe the individual first as a person who also is living with a specific behavioral health issue.
Before submitting your story on suicide death, did you:
- Use preferred language? (e.g., “died by suicide” or “took his/her own life;” not “committed suicide.”
- Use objective, non-sensationalistic language to describe the suicide death?
- Exclude details about method, location, notes or photos from the scene?
- Focus on the life of the person versus the death and method?
- Frame suicide as a preventable form of death?
- Indicate that suicide is always caused by multiple factors?
- Convey that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are not weaknesses or flaws and can be reduced with support and treatment?
- Ensure all links contain reliable information?
- Consult a mental health or suicide prevention expert? (Locally, contact email@example.com to reach subject matter experts.)
- List suicide warning signs and local resources?
Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is working to standardize federal communication about addiction and get rid of negative terms. “For a long time, we’ve known that language plays a huge role in how we think about people and how people think about themselves,” he says. “Words have to change so attitudes change.”
Mr. Botticelli notes that calling addiction a “habit” is not accurate, making it sound as trivial as nail biting. Calling people “clean” when they do not take drugs implies they are dirty when they do use drugs, he says. Urine samples that show evidence of drug use are often referred to as “dirty urine.”
“I can’t think of a more telling example of judgmental terminology,” he says. “We don’t say for a diabetic whose blood sugar spikes that they have a ‘dirty blood sugar.’”
StopAlcoholAbuse.Gov is your gateway to comprehensive research and resources on the prevention of underage drinking.
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Founded in 1987 as an anti-drug advertising campaign and formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, we are a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing teen substance abuse and helping families impacted by addiction.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
NIDA’s mission is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.
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