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Stigma Files 2020

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Issue: We’ve received several reports about media using stigmatising language during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These have included comments such as ‘people who are panic buying belong in a psych ward’, ‘people are turning borderline psychotic’, ‘do you have Obsessive Compulsive Corona Disorder?’ and ‘people are acting like schizos’.

Result: These were comments made on live-to-air television, radio or print media so while media items couldn’t be edited, StigmaWatch alerted the media professionals involved to the impact their language has on people living with mental health issues, and they were provided with the Mindframe guidelines to help improve future coverage.  

Why it mattered: Certain language sensationalises mental ill-health and reinforces stigma.

With many Australians spending increasing time alone during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important, now more than ever, for the media to be mindful of the language that they use and avoid stigmatising or stereotyping mental ill-health. Doing so may cause distress to vulnerable individuals who are perhaps further struggling with their mental health due to the current situation.