1. Show Proactive Steps
    1. Show how athletes are being proactive in taking care of their mental health as part of caring for their overall health, and avoid reinforcing the harmful belief that expressing difficult emotions is a failure or sign of weakness, particularly in sports. 
  2. Credible Experts
    1. Rely on experts when crafting stories or interviews about athletes dealing with mental health challenges, mental health conditions, or substance misuse. 

Storytelling Tips

These tips can be applied to scripted or unscripted entertainment projects that deal with stories about sports or athletes, media coverage, or athletes sharing their personal story. 

Recognize the importance of language.

  • When discussing athletic performance or the behavior of athletes, avoid terms that can perpetuate stigma and judgment around mental health challenges like crazy, insane, psycho, unhinged, mental, nuts, disturbed, etc. 
  • For more guidance around language and the impact that words have on viewers or fans, click here.

Amplify narratives that show being proactive about mental health is a sign of strength.

  • Demonstrate how athletes are being proactive about their well-being and taking care of their overall health by speaking up about mental health, accessing treatment, and practicing self-care. 
  • Avoid talking about mental health challenges (depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorder) as setbacks, failures or character flaws. 
  • Avoid amplifying opinions that imply sitting out, taking time off, or seeking help are failures or signs of weakness, or that an athlete will be judged by media or fans for doing so. If athletes proactively decide to sit out or take time off to protect their mental health, amplify expert commentary that positions these choices as responsible and a sign of strength. 

Consult experts when telling stories about athletes that involve suicide, substance use, or other negative outcomes.

  • Sometimes it’s necessary to tell the stories of athletes who have passed or been hospitalized due to suicide/suicide attempts, substance misuse or overdose. Consult with subject matter experts to ensure you are telling the story in a way that is accurate and safe, and to avoid perpetuating stigma or misunderstanding.
  • When you interview an athlete who has struggled in the past or is currently facing a mental health challenge, work with experts to ensure that individual is ready to tell their story and has accurate information to share with the audience. 
  • Use the Media Guide’s expert directory to find the right advisor for your story.

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