Rebecca Palpant Shimkets, M.S.
Assistant Director, The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism, Mental Health Program at The Carter Center
This is, we anticipate, the first of several occasional contributions from The Carter Center relating to its efforts to improve mental health reporting. The American public and the media influence how decision-makers develop, implement, evaluate, and revise policy. Because of the tremendous impact the media has on public opinion and, ultimately, on policymaking, journalists and other media participants must be comfortable with mental health conditions and the people these conditions affect. We encourage you to share your experiences, thoughts, and opinions to help The Carter Center understand and address the good, the bad, and the ugly in the portrayal of and reporting about mental illness in the media. –CFYM
Though nearly one in four adults in the United States experiences a mental illness each year, mental health issues are often covered in the media through the lens of national tragedies or sensationalist news stories.
Unbalanced or shock-value news stories only serve to perpetuate harmful stigma and discrimination against so many valuable members of our communities. Whether a next door neighbor, a teammate in a pickup basketball game at the gym, or a fellow church member, all of us know someone who has a mental illness. But too often, the majority of our friends, family members, or co-workers avoid effective treatment out of fear that they will be stigmatized or discriminated against because of their medical conditions.