Ohio is working to change the way society views mental illness and substance use disorders. Governor Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio initiative, the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness, and the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance have created “Reporting About Substance Use and Mental Health: A Resource for Media Professionals” as a tool to help journalists, producers and other media professionals reduce the use of potentially stigmatizing language or imagery in news and media coverage.
“In November 2021, we launched the statewide ‘Beat the Stigma’ campaign, and this guide is yet another tool to help Ohioans view these conditions with a deeper understanding and with more empathy, thus helping more Ohioans find recovery," said Governor DeWine. “We are committed to reducing the stigmas that surround addiction and mental illness and also helping Ohioans find recovery resources.”
The influence media portrayals have on public perception make accurate and compassionate depiction of addiction and mental illness extremely important.
The guide was developed as a collaboration among several renowned substance use and mental health doctors, veteran journalists and nationally recognized media relations professionals in the public and private sector.
It provides an in-depth look at stigmas and how media professionals, often unknowingly, use them in their imagery and language. The resource offers alternatives that allow accurate reporting and storytelling on mental illness and addiction without stigmatizing the conditions.
“Some of the images and words we’ve identified not only add to the stigmas that surround mental illness and addiction, but they can also hurt those who are trying to recover from these conditions,” said Aimee Shadwick, interim director of RecoveryOhio. “Images and words can sometimes reinforce self-destructive beliefs or even induce cravings with people in recovery. These are complex diseases that can impact anyone, so we want to reduce the damaging labels that surround them.”