Quick Tips to Improve Mental Health Reporting

Checklist for Reporting on Mental Illness

  • Write with awareness that people with mental illness face prejudice and discrimination.
  • Ask, "Is mental illness relevant to the story?"
  • Verify statements that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime.  A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator.
  • Avoid using language that implies people with mental illness are violent.
  • In stories on mental illness and violence, provide context whenever possible.  Most people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent crimes than a person who has not been diagnosed with mental illness.
  • Use People First Language.
  • Avoid using stereotypical words or phrases in describing people with mental illness.
  • Be sensitive when using photographs for stories involving mental health issues. 
  • Double-check specific symptoms of diagnoses with valid mental health resources, as necessary.
  • When possible, emphasize that treatment is available and effective, recovery happens and prevention works. 
  • When interviewing a person with a mental illness, be clear and repeat important information and give the interviewee ample time to answer the questions posed.