Only 6% of media coverage about mental health problems contains the voice of people with mental health problems
If you are writing about mental health problems then you should always attempt to include the voice of somebody with experience of a mental health condition. After all adding the ‘human element’ is what can make your story interesting.
Think about including people with mental health problems as expert contributors, not just as soundbites.
As a journalist you will get a much better interview if you can help them to feel at ease, after all you are asking them to disclose personal and often distressing information.
Interviewing a person with a past or current mental illness can sometimes require particular sensitivity and discretion.
Things to think about
- is the person genuinely prepared to be interviewed?
- think about where to hold the interview. Meeting in a busy, public café for example may not make the person feel very comfortable.
- don't identify the person by name or using photos or moving footage, unless they have given permission
- seek agreement beforehand on the use of photos and video, and whether the person will be identified
- give them an idea of what they will be asked or even better a list of questions before the interview
- it's likely to help the person to speak about their personal experience if they have had a chance to consider what they will say
- wherever possible, use the person’s own words to represent their experiences
- if the person has a different view of their illness to family or doctors, try to include the person’s understanding of their experience
- If material is likely to be shared with other media outlets, let the interviewees know so they are not taken by surprise when their story appears in other contexts
- let the person know about likely editing processes your story goes through before it is published or broadcast. If you intend to emphasise a particular angle, tell the person
- give the person copy approval if at all possible
- encourage people to seek help by adding information about available support, including helpline numbers, local services and websites