Represent the Causes of Mental Health Challenges Accurately

Top Storytelling Tips

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  1. Avoid oversimplifying causation
    1. Portray the range of factors that contribute to mental health challenges to better equip viewers to support themselves and the people they care about.

Sometimes, stories can inadvertently imply that mental health challenges or negative outcomes are the result of a single event or experience. Examples could include scenarios like a character who falls into disordered eating because of one person insulting their weight, an individual who attempts suicide because they were bullied, or someone who is driven to substance misuse by a breakup. 
All of these events can trigger or contribute to negative outcomes, but oversimplifying causation is unhelpful for people dealing with similar struggles. For example, if a story implies that bullying causes suicide, parents of a teenager who is suicidal and being bullied may assume that stopping the bullying behaviors will be enough to resolve the feelings of hopelessness. In reality, mental health struggles are more complex and the young person may become suicidal again — or remain suicidal — if the underlying issues aren’t addressed. Learn more about the complex factors that influence mental health here.

Avoid oversimplifying the causes of mental health challenges and look for opportunities to help viewers better understand the complex factors that can trigger or exacerbate these challenges:

  • Look out for narratives that that imply a single cause of mental health struggles or dangerous behaviors like substance misuse and suicide, and find ways to show how a combination of genetic, developmental, cultural, and situational factors can contribute to mental health challenges.
  • Draw upon the expertise of subject matter experts and people with lived experience to more fully and authentically represent causation.

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more in part 6