Letter to the editor - Need for Attention to Media Stigma

In response to a recent article on Headspace's call for attention to use of derogatory terms about mental health in the media, our CEO submitted the following letter to The Age's editor calling for similar attention to the use of stigmatising language in the paper's coverage of AOD issues. 

Yesterday’s article on the impact of derogatory language on people with mental illnesses (Sunday Age, “Crackdown call on media use of words like 'loony'”) highlights the progress that has been made in public attitudes towards mental health.  The efforts of organisations like Headspace and beyondblue have contributed to a significant reduction in the stigma associated with mental health and improved health outcomes for those affected.
For those of us providing alcohol and other drugs (AOD) treatment and education services, it reminds us of how far we have to go to achieve a similar impact on the stigmatisation of people who use AOD and their loved ones.  The effect of this stigma increases people’s social isolation and is a constant reminder of the gulf between where they are and where they would like to be.  ReGen’s experience in working with people who are trying to overcome the effects of AOD dependence shows that treating them with respect and dignity is a powerful catalyst for change.  Language like junkie and addict doesn’t help.  We ask that The Age’s editors consider this when approving their next AOD-related headline.
Laurence Alvis
CEO UnitingCare ReGen