Integral Care works closely with local media to help reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and raise awareness about the importance of mental health care. As the Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Disabilities Authorities for Travis County, Integral Care has knowledge and expertise in mental health care, suicide prevention and crisis care as well as mental illness, substance use disorder, and intellectual and developmental disabilities for adults and children.
Below you will find a list of Integral Care media resources for you to use including our style guide, logos, descriptions of Integral Care and our programs, tips on reporting on mental illness and tips on reporting on suicide. If you are a member of the press and need immediate assistance with a story, please contact:
Anne Nagelkirk, Director of Communications and Engagement,
at 512-440-4034 or Anne.Nagelkirk@integralcare.org.
tips on reporting on mental health
If writing about mental illness, substance use disorder or intellectual or developmental disabilities, these tips may be helpful. This information is intended to raise awareness among news organizations, journalists, journalism students and professors on how to improve reporting on mental health issues.
Know the facts
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have one or more diagnosable mental disorders in a given year.
- An estimated 5 to 7% of adults in the U.S. have a serious mental illness in a given year.
- Research shows people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than commit violent acts.
- Mental illness accounts for approximately 3% of violence committed in the U.S.
- Recovery from mental illness is possible and the majority of people live successful, productive lives.
- On average, people with mental illness die 25 years earlier than others, and they die from chronic disease, not mental illness.
- Stigma contributes to social isolation and discrimination and can discourage people from seeking treatment.
Consider whether mental illness is relevant to the story. If it isn’t, then focus on what is relevant. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator and raising mental illness unnecessarily can increase stigma and misunderstanding of the issues. Privacy is also important – consider the impact of disclosure of a mental illness on a person’s life.
Person-first language is a best practice (being mindful of a person’s disability). For example, say “Bob is a person living with mental illness” rather than “Bob is mentally ill”. Bob is a person who happens to have a mental illness, he is not his mental illness.
Write with awareness that people with mental illness face prejudice and discrimination. Avoid using stereotypical words or phrases in describing people with mental illness. Be sensitive when using photographs for stories involving mental health issues. When possible, emphasize that treatment is available and effective, recovery happens and prevention works.
New information in this area is continuously emerging. Ensure that sources are reliable and have current up-to-date information to share.
Avoid using language that implies people with mental illness are violent. In stories on mental illness and violence, provide context whenever possible. Most people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent crimes than a person who has not been diagnosed with mental illness. If there was a violent crime associated with your story, verify statements that mental illness is a factor before including it.
Provide helpful information for how to get more information or help for a mental health issue. Stories in the media can raise issues for people who may need help but haven’t reached out. Help them connect to the help they need by providing contact information for hotlines and websites. Integral Care has a 24/7 Crisis Helpline and a walk-in mental health crisis clinic that’s open seven days a week.
- 24/7 Crisis Helpline
Press 1 for English, then 1 for mental health crisis support.
- Psychiatric Emergency Services
Richard E. Hopkins Behavioral Health Building
1165 Airport Blvd., Second Floor, Austin, TX 78702
Hours Monday – Friday, 8am to 10pm,
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, 10am to 8pm
Mindframe National Media initiative
(multiple tools available)
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Developing a story
- Know your sources: Get to know the local organizations that work in this area and build relationships before you want to do a story. This will help you when you have a breaking issue and need a local perspective. Be aware that organizations may be required by law to protect client information – honor requests not to directly film or photograph clients. Possible organizations include: Integral Care, NAMI Austin, Texas Mental Health Association, Texas Council (statewide policy organization representing local mental health authorities), local hospital districts, non-profit counseling providers and local school districts.
- Perspective: Consider how to get a balanced perspective – a person with lived experience has a different perspective than a professional service provider or law enforcement representative.
- Assumptions: Make sure to check your assumptions about a situation and look at the context for the situation. Our biases can color how we see a situation and can result in inaccurate assumptions. Double-check specific symptoms of diagnoses with valid mental health resources, as necessary.
- Interviews: Allow sufficient time for an interview. When interviewing a person with mental illness, speak clearly and allow time for him/her to respond. Help reduce stigma so that individuals are willing to tell their stories. Please be respectful and use appropriate language.
Tips on reporting on suicide
Research shows that covering stories on suicide can increase the likelihood of additional suicides, depending on the type of coverage. Covering this topic with sensitivity can support individuals to seek help. Below are suggested tips to help prevent additional deaths.
- Refrain from using photographs of grieving relatives and friends when a suicide has occurred. Photographs might encourage someone contemplating suicide to act as a way to get attention or get back at someone, creating a dangerous copycat effect. Youth are especially vulnerable to these effects.
- Do not report the method or place of suicide in detail. Exposure to suicide methods, including photographs, can encourage imitation among vulnerable individuals.
- Do not portray suicide as a heroic or romantic result of a single event or cause. This obscures the long and painful process that results in completing suicide. Over 90% of suicide victims have a significant mental illness at the time of their death.
- Always include information about crisis intervention services in the area and a referral phone number. Integral Care’s 24/7 Crisis Helpline is 512-472-HELP (4357).
- Do not use the word suicide in headlines, even when they take place in public. This unnecessarily dramatizes the event and shifts the focus from the tragic loss of life. There are exceptions, as in the term “suicide bomber” when reporting on terrorist activities.
- Focus on prevention such as what signs to look for when someone might be considering suicide.
For current, comprehensive recommendations for reporting on suicide, click here.
To download media best practices for covering a suicide, click here.