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Resources for Reporting on Mental Health, Suicide, and Journalist Self-Care

May is Mental Health Month, an opportunity for broadcast newsrooms to re-examine reporting practices on behavioral health issues, from substance use to suicide.  

It should also serve as a reminder for journalists to pay attention to their own well-being.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that one in five Americans will experience a mental health disorder in any given year.
Indeed, many individuals will receive professional help and learn ways to cope.

Newsrooms can play a critical role in advancing understanding of mental illness, substance disorders, and suicide.

Too often, the APA says, headlines about mental health “focus on rare, sensational cases that lead to violence or death.”

Where to Begin

There are several coverage resources available to journalists seeking to do a better job of reporting on mental health.

The APA’s mantra is “words matter” and the association has a concise best practices in reporting on mental health page on its website.

The Carter Center has a pdf available, Journalism Resource Guide on Behavioral Health that walks journalists through editorial questions to ask when covering mental health issues, as well as instruction on describing such issues in reporting.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has five chapters in Texas and offers free mental health training for organizations looking to educate their employees, such as its 45-minute “Talk Saves Lives” program which the organization offers virtually or in person. 

AFSP also offers a 30-minute training session on safe reporting for newsrooms by contacting a local AFSP chapter

The foundation has a webpage dedicated to responsible reporting on suicide as well as a pdf of its Top 10 Tips for Reporting on Suicide available.

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide is another resource developed by leading experts in suicide prevention in collaboration with several international suicide prevention and public health organizations, schools of journalism, and media organizations.  

It notes that studies worldwide have found that the risk of contagion is real, but responsible reporting can reduce the risk of additional suicides.

In fact, covering suicide carefully can change perceptions, dispel myths, and inform the public on the complexities of the issue, and even result in help-seeking.

Journalist Self-Care

Day-to-day reporting can take a serious toll on newsrooms, and it is important for journalists to address their own mental health.

Newsrooms can access a recent TAB training session featuring retired Poynter Institute instructor Al Tompkins and his licensed therapist wife Sidney, in a workshop they developed for journalists to recognize and mitigate the impacts of trauma and stress.

The presentation, along with other Tompkins sessions presented last fall, are posted in the Members section of

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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