- Language: Words can help or hurt others. Use language that promotes inclusivity and reduces stigma and discrimination. See our guide of recommended terminology.
- Sources: Information about mental illness, treatments and the sector are changing constantly. For reliable, accurate and up-to-date information consult widely with experts in the sector and the Mental Health Foundation.
- Balance: Include the voice of people who have experience of mental illness and/or use mental health services, along with their whānau, support people, kaumātua or kuia where relevant. Also consider showing people as more than their illness.
- Cultural sensitivities: Ensure different cultural worldviews on mental health and wellbeing are considered. Seek expert cultural opinion or perspective from kaumātua, kuia and Pasifika mātua.
- Interviews: Interviewing a person with current or past mental illness and/or their whānau requires compassion, sensitivity and privacy considerations – see below: Consider your interviewee.
- Images: Don’t undermine the good work a story can achieve by using outdated, inaccurate images, eg: headclutcher, hospital ward, pills and injections.
- Helplines: Include appropriate helpline numbers such as 1737 to support help-seeking. See recommended helplines.
“I’m not bitter about the fact that I live with bipolar; I accept that it’s part of my life. I accept that I must manage it and sometimes it causes some interesting experiences for me that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I don’t let it define who I am or what I can achieve." – Mental health consumer.
Consider your interviewee
“He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.”
“What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.”
- Respect the language people use for themselves when describing their diagnosis, behaviour or experience.
- Consider discussing with the interviewee the potential consequences for their health, safety and livelihood if you publicise their experience of a mental illness. Ensure they are aware of how their story will be used, and whether it will remain available online.
- Ensure interviewees are currently well, have support around them (if they wish) during and after the interview process, and let them know when the story will be made public.
- Offer anonymity: People are sometimes worried about how people will view them if they share their experience or have concerns about discrimination from future employers, landlords and others.
“I hoped that sharing my story will increase understanding of mental health and maybe inspire other people with similar problems to me.” – Mental health consumer.
We recommend always including the core four helplines in stories about mental illness or mental health issues, so your audience knows who to contact if they need support.
The core four are:
- Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP).
- Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat.
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666.
We have a wider list of helplines, which include other numbers that may be most appropriate for your article. For example, for stories about alcohol addiction include the Alcohol and Drug Helpline, or for stories about LGBTI+ people, include OUTLine.
Please consider adding several, and contacting the MHF media team for help, but if you can only include one helpline, please choose 1737.
We also recommend including a warning if any stories may trigger or be particularly distressing.
For further guidance or information please contact the Mental Health Foundation communications team:
Phone: 09 623 4810