Research Manager at Black Dog Institute Dean Martin shares why he’s a StigmaWatcher. Having lost his son to suicide, Dean is passionate about working to treat mental illness and prevent suicide, particularly in Australian young people.
Doing research on suicide prevention, as well as having lost my son to suicide, means that I am very aware of the stigma often attached to mental health and suicide. Usually this is because of ignorance, but it can be very damaging. It is important to people living with mental health issues that reporting about mental illness is factual, not sensationalist or stigmatising. The best way for the media to report on such issues in a non-stigmatising manner is to follow the Mindframe media guidelines.
I was concerned about the language used in a media item about a suicide and reported the item to StigmaWatch. I also contacted the media outlet concerned about their reporting. After contacting StigmaWatch, the media item was subsequently amended online so it was more appropriate.
The media has a lot of influence in Australia, so it’s important that programs like StigmaWatch exist to follow up with the media when they use stigmatising language, or report on other aspects of mental health and suicide in a manner that isn’t responsible. StigmaWatch provides the opportunity to encourage more responsible reporting, which is crucial to ensuring that the Australian media continues on their way to be a world leader in well-informed, safe and factual reporting of mental health issues.
If a media item is in breach of the StigmaWatch criteria or the Mindframe media guidelines, then I’ll report it. Sometimes it isn’t possible to approach the media outlet or journalist directly, so having somewhere to report it is important. I’ve only come across a few media items that I’ve thought breached media guidelines, which indicates that generally the media is reporting on suicide and mental health responsibly. I see a lot of media items about suicide because of the research that I’m involved with, and it is good to see that most journalists report on suicide and mental health responsibly.
By reporting mental health and suicide in a non-stigmatising and safe way the media can help to inform the public, reducing the likelihood of others being stigmatised. Language is important too. It’s important that the media doesn’t label people by their mental illness. The media can also provide information about what help is available, as well as imparting hope to those who may need help or are suicidal.
National 24/7 crisis services
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78