22 February 2017
The media play a vital role in society by educating, informing and encouraging public discourse, and bringing people from around the world together. But, just as good journalism and reporting can strengthen society and create unity, bad journalism or reporting can help to strengthen negative societal beliefs and values. When it comes to reporting on mental health, the media have a very important role to play. Stigma and discrimination against people with mental disorders or disabilities 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 ongoing Life Esidimeni case has positioned mental health firmly in the spotlight, and as a result mental health has received a great deal of coverage. Although the increased press coverage and conversations surrounding mental health is a positive development, it has highlighted the need for members of the media to be educated and empowered on responsible ways to report on mental health.
For this reason the South African Federation for Mental Health has created the Media Guide for Responsible Reporting on Mental Health. The guide is designed to empower the media in South Africa to help dispel the many negative beliefs that surround mental health. 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. It offers guidelines on the correct use of language and terminology, as well as a glossary giving brief descriptions of some of the most common mental disorders and the meanings of words or terms often used in the mental health field.
It is our hope that media practitioners will find this guide useful and informative, and that it will enable the media to report accurately, fairly and responsibly on mental health care users and the issues that affect them.
The guide can be accessed/downloaded here.
FOR ENQUIRIES/INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Programme Manager: Information & Awareness
SA Federation for Mental Health