A new strategy to support the media and other stakeholders to communicate safely, respectfully and responsibly about alcohol and other drugs has been developed by Mindframe.
This strategy includes evidence-based guidelines for reporting on these issue in order to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol and other drug use, increase help-seeking behaviour in people who may require treatment or support, and minimise harm.
In the post below, the creators of this strategy share important details of its development and the extensive consultation process involved in creating this important resource.
Marc Bryant, Sara Bartlett, Frances Kay-Lambkin, Brydie Jameson, Francesca Groves and Clare Jones write:
Evidence suggests that the way we communicate about alcohol and other drugs can have a significant impact on individuals and families affected by problematic drug use, influencing their help-seeking behaviour.
In response to this, Mindframe managed by Everymind has launched a new program, Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs.
For more than two decades, Mindframe has provided national guidance on the safe reporting, communication and portrayal of suicide and mental-ill health in Australia and will now apply the same tested model to the alcohol and other drugs project.
In 2017 the Australian Department of Health commissioned Everymind to scope and develop guidelines for reporting on alcohol and other drugs (AOD) in the media.
Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs is a strategy to support the media and other stakeholders to communicate safely, respectfully and responsibly about alcohol and other drugs. This evidence-informed project aims to reduce stigma associated with AOD use, increase help-seeking behaviour in people who may require treatment or support, and minimise harm.
The guidelines are informed by research evidence as well as expert consultation within the development phase. This involved engagement with key stakeholders, within the Mindframefor Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Group as well as other important stakeholders such as media, journalism and communications professionals, university educators, representatives from peak and professional AOD bodies, lived experience representatives and the suicide prevention and mental health sector.
In the early stages of the project, Everymind commissioned The University of Newcastle to conduct an Evidence Check to review and summarise the media reporting of AOD use worldwide. The Evidence Check examined the impact of media portrayals on stigma and behaviours and provided recommendations on how to shape media reporting of AOD use to maximise public health benefits.
A Delphi Survey then refined the guidelines, with participants rating their level of agreement with each of the guidelines. Guidelines that did not meet the pre-established criteria were excluded from the final version. This process ensured rigour and expert consultation as a key element of the guidelines development.
Why guidelines on communicating about alcohol and other drugs?
Australian media are highly influential and play a considerable role in shaping the views of the public. At the same time, the attitudes and beliefs of the public can have a significant impact on individuals who use AOD.
University of Newcastle’s, Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin and co-author of the Evidence Check: Media Reporting of Alcohol and Other Drugs, understands the important role media play in shaping public attitudes and beliefs of AOD.
“The evidence tells us that what we see and what we read influences our attitudes and behaviours,”
“When people who use drugs are portrayed as dangerous, violent criminals, it is at the very end of the severity spectrum of use, and is only a small proportion of people who use drugs” said Frances.
There is an opportunity for media to support prevention, early intervention and treatment efforts of people who use AOD and those experiencing problems with use.
As Frances states, “The media can educate the community about AOD and can influence treatment and help-seeking by creating confidence that AOD problems can be treated and managed effectively.”
Everymind, Acting Program Manager, Sara Bartlett said the recent launch is just the first stage of this exciting project.
“The guidelines aim to reduce stigma associated with alcohol and other drugs and increase help-seeking behaviour for people living with issues related to AOD use and their families.
We are grateful to be able to provide this next level of support and to continue to work closely with the media and other stakeholders” Sara says.
Mindframe hopes to move into the dissemination phase of the project with plans to conduct two pilot studies on training with university communication’s students and media organisations.
The University of Newcastle will also be commissioned to undertake a media monitoring study of how Australian media report and portray alcohol and other drugs.
To find out more about the Mindframe for Alcohol and Other Drugs project, visit: www.mindframe.org.au/AOD.
To read or download the guidelines, visit: www.mindframe.org.au/AODguidelines.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, please know 24/7 services are available to support you. You can reach out to any of the services listed below.
National support services
National 24/7 Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline: 1800 250 015
Other 24/7 support services
Counselling Online: counsellingonline.org.au
Family Drug Support: 1300 368 186
Lifeline: 13 11 14 lifeline.org.au
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 79 mensline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 beyondblue.org.au
Turning Point: turningpoint.org.au
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: adf.org.au
Positive Choices: positivechoices.org.au
Head to Health: headtohealth.gov.au