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How to report on mental health

Media reporting can have a huge influence on public attitudes towards mental health.

When dealing with a topic already entrenched with stigma and misunderstanding, fair and accurate journalism is essential.

The Press Complaints Commission code of practice states that:

  1. The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
  2. Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Time to Change, an anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, produces guidance on how to cover mental health sensitively and responsibly. There are two guides:

  • reporting mental health in the news and
  • reporting on on mental health-related story lines in soaps and dramas.

How to report on suicide

The way that suicide is reported can have a direct impact on imitative behaviours so it's essential to take care when reporting individual cases. The Samaritans produce a media guide on reporting suicide.

How to report on violence

Links between violence and mental health are made often, particularly in the media. It is important to recognise that this focus can be unhelpful as it supports myths and creates stigma. Please refer to Mind's booklet on violence and mental health when reporting on it.

How to report on eating disorders

Beat has a set of Media Guidelines to encourage balanced and responsible reporting. As well as the use of harmful images we also discourage the use of specific weights or the lowest weight a person reached and amounts eaten.

Images in the media

Stigmatising pictures can be just as damaging as words when used to depict stories about mental health. Sometimes positive content can be overlooked because of the supporting picture. The Time to Change campaign, run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, has developed a selection of images which can be used as alternatives to the 'headclutcher' shot that is often used. Find out more about these images and how to download them for free.

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