Statement on the reporting and misrepresentation of mental health in the media

19 March 2021
 
 
 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) seeks to caution journalists and media outlets on the importance of correct and sensitive reporting on mental health in the media.

The RANZCP is most concerned by the constant, and sometimes insensitive, misrepresentation of mental illness in the media which can ultimately influence the mental health and wellbeing of an individual when exposed to irresponsible reporting.

Prejudice and ongoing stigma, for people with mental illness, in the media suggests people with mental health problems lack capacity or are unreliable. Comments like these can often lead to individuals experiencing significant distress, exacerbated by incorrect and insensitive media reporting.

We consider responsible media reporting to be an integral aspect of caring for the mental health and wellbeing of Australian citizens and encourage ongoing collaboration, research and leadership to ensure appropriate reporting of suicide in Australia and New Zealand. 

Certain ways of reporting and discussing suicide can alienate members of the community, sensationalise the issue or inadvertently glamorise suicide.

Similarly “labelling” people with a mental illness and making assumptions about about a person’s mental state or motivations based on limited evidence or lay opinion in the media can be just as harmful.

The media should consider the impact of the presentation of suicide on people in the community, in particular, considering those who are experiencing mental ill health or severe mental illness, as well as their loved ones. 

It is imperative that the media follow clear and endorsed principles, such as those outlined by Mindframe when reporting on mental illness or suicide.

The issue of reducing the stigma of mental health problems by more respectful, just and empowering language should be strengthened in the advice. Language can be a vehicle for promoting stigma or challenging it.

Leadership and support needed for the community, families and people who live with mental illness generally and we encourage media to refer to ensure reporting is worded appropriately.

For more information on reporting on suicide, read the RANZCP Position Statement 70: Suicide reporting in the media

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.