Associated Press Stylebook Adds Entry on Covering Mental Illness

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Entertainment Industries Council Lauds AP on New Guidelines for Journalists

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AP’s adoption of mental health coverage guidelines is a significant step in helping these influential professionals to create accurate, balanced coverage of mental illness and those living with mental illness.
--Brian Dyak

The Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) today applauded a decision by the Associated Press to add an entry on mental illness to its stylebook for journalists. A recent survey of broadcast and print journalists by EIC’s Tools for Entertainment and Media (TEAM Up) project showed that reporters and editors sought guidance and resources to help them report more accurately on the subject of mental health and mental illness.

The new entry in The Associated Press Stylebook, considered the essential reference guide for print, broadcast and online newsrooms and journalism classrooms, directs news media to avoid describing people as mentally ill unless someone’s mental health is clearly pertinent to a story and the person’s diagnosis is properly sourced. It also suggests a more precise use of language, such as avoiding derogatory terms in health and non-health stories.

“AP’s adoption of mental health coverage guidelines is a significant step in helping these influential professionals to create accurate, balanced coverage of mental illness and those living with mental illness,” said EIC President and CEO Brian Dyak. “The entry will have widespread, long-term impact on the way the media report on mental health and increase the likelihood that those who need treatment will seek it.”

An EIC analysis of stories published in more than 20 English- and Spanish-language newspapers in California over 12 months revealed that most coverage about people with mental illness is negative and much of it links mental illness with dangerousness.

The analysis, coupled with EIC’s survey of 40 California reporters, shows that members of the news profession could benefit from specific guidelines and more resources to help with their coverage of mental health. In response, EIC, through the TEAM Up project, is developing a wealth of resources in English and Spanish for reporters that will supplement AP’s mental health guidance.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 4 Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Journalists have substantial influence on the public’s attitudes about mental health. As newsrooms place emphasis on breaking news and crises, the AP mental illness entry gives reporters a new view of individuals living with mental illness, to avoid leading people to misperceptions and even discrimination.

TEAM Up, created by EIC and supported by the California Mental Health Services Authority, aims to encourage deeper reporting and more realistic depictions of mental health and, in turn, promote help-seeking behavior among people living with mental illness.

About Entertainment Industries Council
EIC is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 by leaders within the entertainment industry to bring their power and influence to bear on communication about health and social issues. The organization is considered to be the chief pioneer of entertainment and journalism outreach and a premier success story in the field of entertainment education. This mission relies on providing resource information to the creative community and culminates in recognition of the industry through the national television special PRISM Awards Showcase, which addresses accurate portrayals of substance use issues and mental health concerns. The organization also produces the S.E.T Awards, honoring positive and non-stereotypical portrayals of science, engineering and technology.

For a complete list of health and social issues addressed by EIC and local projects please visit First Draft and EIC’s website at http://www.eiconline.org. The PRISM Awards website is http://www.prismawards.com.

The TEAMup program is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention Initiatives implemented by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working together to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis. For more information, visit http://www.calmhsa.org

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Skylar Jackson

Marie Gallo Dyak
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