On nearly a daily basis, journalists find themselves covering stories about crime and violence in their communities. When reporters starting looking for the "why" behind the story, they sometimes discover the people involved have a history of behavioral health problems, including mental illness and substance abuse.
Advocates say it is important for journalists to avoid stereotypes when covering these issues, and report fairly and sensitively about those affected. RTDNA links to several resources to aid in developing coverage.
The Carter Center Mental Health Program and the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism has a set of guidelines to assist newsrooms in reporting on behavioral health issues. The guide includes questions newsrooms should ask before including details about mental health or substance abuse in stories, along with suggestions for terminology to avoid stereotypes and reducing the stigma of behavioral health problems, as well as story suggestions about prevention, early intervention and treatment. It also contains links to many more resources from government and nonprofit organizations that specialize in behavioral health.
Since 2013, the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) has worked in partnership with RTDNA and the National Association of Broadcasters, to develop resources which help journalists cover mental illness, substance use disorders, behavioral health treatment and recovery and suicide prevention. As part of the group's ongoing TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media) initiative, a comprehensive book offers suggestions for storytelling, best practices, research, lived experiences, and guidance for creating thoughtful reporting. Click here for your free online PDF copy of the book. The project also offers social media guidelines, including social media strategies, reliable sources of menal health information, ideas for balanced coverage, dealing with suicide-related incidents, language, images, privacy, safety and online engagement, along with links to other resources with tools and best practices. RTDNA also offers suicide coverage guidelines to aid stations in shaping their reporting.
We have linked to all of these resources under the "training" tab on the RTDNA website.