Media guidelines

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Media guidelines: Portrayal of people living with mental illness and mental health issues in Aotearoa

These guidelines will equip journalists with the confidence and understanding to report on mental illness and mental health issues safely, accurately and respectfully. One in five Kiwis will experience a mental health problem this year, and more than half of us will go through distress or mental illness at some point in our lives. See quick reporting checklist here. 

MediaGuidelines thumb2Journalists hold great power and can influence public opinion about people with mental illness in positive and negative ways. People’s attitudes can reinforce stigma and lead to discrimination, which is a barrier to recovery and being able to live a full life.

When handled well, reporting can:

  • change public misconceptions
  • challenge myths and educate people about mental health
  • change attitudes that reinforce mental illness stigma and lead to discrimination
  • encourage people in distress to seek help
  • support hope and recovery.

When handled poorly, reporting can:

  • make it less likely that people experiencing mental distress will ask for help
  • mislead the public about what experiences of mental illness and mental health care are like
  • reinforce misguided beliefs that people living with a mental illness are dangerous and to be feared
  • increase feelings of shame and isolation for people experiencing distress.

The guidelines were created in collaboration with media and mental health consumer representatives, and informed by evidence-based practice.

Download and print the guidelines and checklist.

Please include helplines in your stories.

We recommend always promoting these four core helplines with stories about suicide or mental distress so your audience knows who to contact if they need support.

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE).
Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat.
Samaritans 0800 726 666.

The Mental Health Foundation have a wider list of helplines that may be appropriate for your article. Please consider adding several, but if you can only have one, please use 1737.

More information

For media queries contact:

Danielle Whitburn
Senior Communications and Marketing Officer
09 623 4810
022 120 3421 

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