Recommendations relating to Mass Media

Many people who have not had exposure to people living with complex mental health learn about such experiences through mass media reporting. Unfortunately, portrayals are often inaccurate, perpetuating misinformation as well as harmful stereotypes – including that people living with complex mental health issues are ‘dangerous’ or ‘unpredictable’.

While there are existing guidelines used to promote safe and responsible reporting of mental illness, there is varying uptake of these across media outlets. The media can be a powerful tool in educating people about experiences of mental health and can also be used to profile lived experience stories of hope and recovery.


“More true stories need to be told to the public.”

– Our Turn to Speak participant, New South Wales


Participants reported that they had seen, read or heard media stories that promote stigma about mental health issues. Almost all participants who responded to the mass media-specific section of the survey reported being exposed to news media outputs that portrayed people who live with mental health issues as dangerous, unsafe or unpredictable. Participants explained that nuanced messaging around the multi-faceted relationships between mental health issues and violence is typically lacking. Many participants reported that they had withdrawn from or opted out of watching, reading or listening to mass media.

"Often concerns about stigma are unfortunately dismissed as overreactions or being too sensitive. Depiction of mental illness in the media is one of the biggest contributors to my reluctance to share my personal experiences.       

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Western Australia    


The media has a strong influence over the public’s understanding of mental health issues. Unfortunately, the findings reported here suggest that, despite decades of mental health reporting guidelines, journalist training initiatives and public-facing campaigns, misinformation and damaging stereotypes are still being circulated. Continuing work through the StigmaWatch program is required to promote responsible reporting and ongoing education about complex mental health issues. 


Recommendations for action 

  1. Increase complex mental health literacy among journalists and media outlets through education and training. 
  2. Ensure journalists and media outlets report stories involving people with complex mental health issues responsibly and respectfully, and increase inclusion of the perspective of people with lived experience.
  3. Encourage media outlets, political leaders and key community spokespeople to adopt the relevant Mindframe guidelines and include help-seeking information that is specific for people affected by complex mental health issues in their stories.