The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Tips for Improving Mental Health Reporting

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The School of Social Work at the University of Washington has a great website for anyone who reports and/or writes about mental health issues. Sure, journalists have strict stylistic and ethical codes that they must adhere to when they write, but shouldn’t all of us — professional journalist or not — take the same care when we write about topics such as mental health? I say “absolutely”:

Journalists recognize the power of words and images used to define and characterize a subject.  At least since the civil rights era, reporting practices have encouraged reporters and editors to avoid stereotypical language and ensure careful use of images when referring to ethnic and racial minorities and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there are no widely used guidelines for journalists when reporting includes a person with mental illness.

The purpose of this website is to provide tools and information for news organizations, journalists, journalism educators, and a broad coalition of news story informants on ways to improve reporting on mental health issues.

Whether you’re a journalist, a medical professional, non-profit organization, law firm or just a blogger, understanding the protocol, guidelines and information surrounding whatever you’re writing about is paramount.

The University of Washington’s website offers tips on how to improve your writing on topics such as violence, mental illness and suicide. The website helps writers eliminate stigmas and stereotypes in their writing, as well as providing tips on how to interview a person with a mental illness and ways to improve the accuracy of your writing.

Part of the root problem — which has cultivated the need for websites like this one — is that we’re not always experts on the subjects we’re writing about. To help solve that problem, the website also provides facts about mental illness.

Every so often an incredible resource comes along that I think most of us — mental health professional or not — need to know about: this website is one of them.

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Written by traumalines

September 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm

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