Given the critical role that the media play in shaping public opinion and influencing the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians, the MHCC is striving to provide journalism students with tools and resources to better understand the influence news media have on stigmatizing or fueling discrimination against people with mental health problems and illnesses.
MHCC’s Opening Minds Anti-Stigma Program partnered with Ryerson University and Mount Royal University to pilot online modules centred on stigma reduction and responsible reporting.
“We are taking a two-pronged approach. We want reporters to understand why the stigma around mental illness is so damaging,” says Micheal Pietrus, Director of Opening Minds. “And then we want to give them the knowledge to help erase it through their work.”
As well-known Globe and Mail health columnist, André Picard, explains so eloquently, “Journalists should be as willing to write about depression as breast cancer, as dogged and thorough in the reporting of advances and setbacks, and as determined to seek out patients to illustrate their stories.”
Over the course of four modules, students learn about the concept of stigma, gain understanding about its damaging effects, and examine how stigma has been perpetuated by negative and dramatic news coverage.
In an effort to shape a more positive dialogue, the modules emphasize the importance of using non-stigmatizing language in reporting and giving a voice to people with lived experience of mental health problems and illnesses.
This innovative online course will be shared with journalism schools across Canada so that it can be integrated into curricula.
The MHCC is making the modules open and accessible to anyone wishing to gain insight into the coverage of mental health in the news, or seeking to understand how to better contextualize mental illness in discussions at work, at home, or in the community.