For years, the news media used inaccurate, careless, or stigmatizing language or practices in reporting on mental illness.
Finally, the Associated Press (AP) has included rules on mental illness in the new edition of the AP Stylebook, the bible used throughout the industry.
In other words, the mental health community has won a huge victory—a seismic shift in the terrain of popular culture. If necessary, mental health advocates, looking forward, can cite the AP Stylebook as an authority in getting wayward editors and reporters to change their way in how they report about mental illness.
The new rules include:
- Mental illness is a general condition. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible
- Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.
- Wherever possible, rely on people with mental illness to talk about their own diagnoses.
- Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.
- Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness