Avoid Sharing Potentially Harmful Details - Mental Health

Top Storytelling Tips

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  1. Steer clear of information that could cause harm
    1. Examine storylines involving harmful behaviors to avoid unintentionally providing information or reinforcing misconceptions that could make someone engage in similar behaviors.

Viewers who are struggling can sometimes view depictions of harmful behavior as a blueprint to follow.

Avoid showing scenarios that could inspire viewers to embrace negative behaviors themselves.

  • While realism can be an important aspect of storytelling, it’s important to remember that some viewers may disregard or not fully retain the consequences of harmful behavior that plays out on screen.
  • It’s critical not to give audience members “how to” information that could help them participate in harmful behavior: eg, a character or cast member who figured out a way to steal pills from family or friends, hide self-injury marks, fool people into thinking they were eating meals when they weren’t, or acquire means to attempt suicide. These scenarios may be relevant to the narrative you’re creating, but to be safe, it’s better to avoid portrayals that can be replicated.
  • While realism can be an important aspect of storytelling, it’s important to remember that some viewers may disregard or not fully retain the consequences of harmful behavior that plays out on screen. 
  • It’s critical not to give audience members “how to” information that could help them participate in harmful behavior. For example, a character or cast member may have figured out a way to steal pills from family or friends, hide self-injury marks, deceive people into thinking they were eating meals when they weren’t, or acquire means to attempt suicide. These scenarios may be relevant to the narrative you’re creating, but to be safe, it’s better to avoid portrayals that can be replicated.
  • If your story includes negative outcomes like overdoses, self-injury or suicide, be careful about scenes or portrayals that romanticize these dangerous behaviors. If these elements are part of the persona of a character or cast member who is portrayed as cool, artsy, or edgy, make sure to also highlight the downsides of these harmful behaviors. When a story includes a character who attempts or dies by suicide, there are additional factors to consider like contagion.

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more in part 6