WordsMatter: a new website to help promote fair mental health reporting

iStock_000013693360XSmall mental health newspaper headlines

Unbalanced and prejudicial reporting of mental health issues creates a climate of stigma and discrimination against people who experience mental health problems. This is a major barrier in terms of their everyday lives and can significantly hamper their recovery.

There is a gap in terms of a web-based project that allows people to praise and criticise media reporting of mental health issues in a structured way. WordsMatter will fill that gap.

The purpose of WordsMatter is to promote fair mental health reporting. We want to improve the reporting of mental health issues in the media, and journalists’ understanding of mental health issues. Words do matter. The use of inappropriate and stigmatising language, such as ‘schizo’ or ‘nutter’, is damaging and harmful to the hundreds of thousands of people who experience mental distress (600,000 people are in contact with specialist mental health services every day). But it’s not just about individual words. It’s about fair reporting that is accurate and balanced, and puts stories in context.

WordsMatter aims to establish a systematic process for encouraging people to praise good, and challenge poor, reporting on mental health issues. It comprises a web-based service which alerts subscribers to selected items, allowing them the opportunity to contact the media concerned through the website.

The overall intention is to encourage the media to be more sensitive and informed in their use of language in reporting on mental health issues, and to provide balance and context in their coverage. Initially, the project has been funded to cover national and key regional press cuttings only, but the vision is to expand this in due course to cover discrimination more widely in the media and public life, subject of course to securing additional funding.

WordsMatter website

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Andre Tomlin

Andre Tomlin

André started the Mental Elf website in May 2011. He has worked as an Information Scientist in Mental Health since the late nineties; initially at Oxford University's Centre for Evidence-Based Mental Health and since 2002 as the Managing Director of Minervation Ltd. He loves blogging, social media and elves! He also has established interests in evidence-based healthcare, usability testing and web design.

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