Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma

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Be a Media Watchdog

Mental health stigma is everywhere. You will find it in movies, on television and radio, and in your local newspaper. Sometimes, writers knowingly go for the lowest common denominator; sometimes, they are truly unaware of the impact of their words.

So, when you hear or see something offensive, make some noise. Call and write the general manager of your local radio station when a provocative talk show host uses offensive humor to bolster ratings. Do the same by voicing your opinion to studio heads, television producers, and newspaper editors when you see insensitive and inaccurate portrayals of individuals living with mental illness. Start a petition, either handwritten or electronic, and get as many names on it as you can.

Remember that the media and entertainment industry are businesses. At the end of the day, they need sponsorship; to get sponsorship, they need an audiences. Therefore, if you want to be an agent of influence, just follow the money. Call and write the sponsors. Start a blog and go national - or go global! The last thing in the world a sponsor wants is for their product or message to be associated with public outcry or controversy.

During a media roundtable that the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma hosted in October 2022, Otto Wahl, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Hartford, and Author of Media Madness: Public Images of Mental Illness and Telling Is Risky Business: Mental Health Consumers Confront Stigma, shared guidelines for reporting on and speaking about mental illness in a non-stigmatizing way. Also at this event, journalists and individuals with lived experience shared examples of media coverage of mental health related issues. Click here to read highlights of this discussion and here to watch a video of this event.

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