This guide is designed to empower the media in South Africa to help dispel the many negative beliefs that surround mental health. As stated in the guide: “Stigma and discrimination against people with mental disorders or disability is still widespread, and there are still many misconceptions and negative beliefs surrounding the topic of mental health. For this reason, it is incredibly important that when reporting on mental health, the information that is sent out is accurate, respectful and fair.” The guide explains that the vast majority of news stories on mental illness either focus on negative characteristics related to people with the disorders (e.g., unpredictability or unsocial ability) or on medical treatments. Absent are positive stories that highlight recovery of many persons with even the most serious of mental illness.
The guide includes general guidelines for covering mental health stories, as well as specific guidelines on reporting on mental health in relation to crime and suicide (areas where reporting often promotes stigma and discrimination). It offers guidelines on the correct use of language and terminology, including terms to use in some of South Africa’s African languages. It also looks at the relationship between the media and persons with mental disorders/disabilities, making the point that people living with mental disorders should always be treated with respect and should be able to work with the media to create awareness and understanding of mental health. Finally, the guide contains a glossary giving brief descriptions of some of the most common mental disorders (such as depressive disorders, personality disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, and substance-related and addictive disorders), as well as the meanings of words or terms often used in the mental health field.
The guide includes the following chapters:
- Language and Terminology
- Reporting on mental health
- Mental disorders and crime
- Reporting responsibly on suicide
- The relationship between the media and persons with mental disorder/disabilities
- What can SAFMH [South African Federation for Mental Health] do to assist the media
- Glossary of illnesses/disorders/syndromes/disabilities
- Commonly used terminology
Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health website on December 9 2016.