Media & e-Mental Health


A key part of the MHCC’s work is building bridges to effect change that will reach people where they are, and this includes our efforts to reshape the national dialogue about mental health problems and illnesses by supporting more responsible and meaningful media coverage.

To that end, in 2010, an action-research project was launched to examine how news reporting on mental health is evolving as the Mental Health Commission of Canada has taken concrete actions to improve the tone and content of reporting.  Our initiatives include contact-based education, the distribution of a field guide with evidence-based reporting guidelines (Mindset) and the creation
of an online training course for journalism students.

Through research undertaken at Douglas Hospital Research Centre at McGill University, Dr. Rob Whitley is examining media coverage in mental illness spanning more than 10 years, from 2005-2018.  The study assesses the tone and content of articles about mental illness, which involves collecting, reading and coding news stories around mental illness.

The retrospective portion of the study (2005-2010) found there was little change, with a high proportion of negative articles.  Interim results from the longitudinal study, published in October 2016, found that media coverage of mental illness generally has improved significantly since 2005. Articles published later in the reporting period (2005-2015) were much more likely to have a positive tone, to mention the shortage of resources, to quote people with mental illness or mental health experts, and to have less stigmatizing content.  The study found articles published since the formation of the MHCC were substantially more likely to be positive and less stigmatizing than articles published pre-MHCC.

How well major Canadian newspapers followed the Mindset guidelines when reporting on actor Robin Williams’ suicide is the subject of a study by Dr. Whitley and Michael Creed. Slightly over half the articles respected 80 per cent of the Mindset guidelines on suicide, while 85 per cent applied at least 70 per cent of its
14 recommendations.

The MHCC partnered with the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma to create Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health, a field guide by journalists, for journalists to inspire responsible and meaningful media coverage of mental health problems and illnesses. In 2017, a second edition of Mindset was released, which features a chapter dedicated to reporting on Indigenous mental health.

“In recent years, the media attention paid to mental illness, suicide and addiction has increased dramatically. The Mindset Guide, prepared by journalists for journalists (and with the support of the Mental Health Commission of Canada) set-out to provide practical tips and valuable context to help reporters improve the quality of their coverage and, by all accounts, it succeeded.”  – André Picard, health columnist, The Globe and Mail

e-Mental health

Another area where the MHCC is building bridges to reach people in their communities is through a renewed focus on e-mental health. In fiscal 2016-17 a new team gathered input from stakeholders to enhance knowledge and share promising practices. Achievements include:

  • Initiating an updated review of the literature on e-mental health and an environmental scan of e-mental health in Canada
  • Working with people with lived experience to develop an e-mental health information resource
  • Reconvening an e-mental health collaborative
  • Undertaking a survey of mental health professionals,
    in collaboration with national mental health professional associations

The MHCC also hosted two roundtables convening more than 90 health care leaders, mental health service providers, policy-makers, people with lived experience and national and international experts.

Throughout 2016-17, the MHCC continued to support partnerships and collaborations in e-mental health, including advisory roles for innovative research projects and a formal collaboration with CIHR’s Institute of Gender and Health to catalyze innovation in e-mental health.

100% of participants who completed meeting evaluation surveys indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the roundtables


over 90% respondents indicated that they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the statement that they will use information gained from the roundtable they attended in their work.

Not only is e-mental health proven to be as effective as face-to-face treatment for certain types of illnesses, there are also distinct advantages: accessibility, flexibility, anonymity and cost-effectiveness.

– Excerpted from The Power of e-Mental Health, by Louise Bradley and Dr. JianLi Wang, Canadian HR Reporter, April 24, 2017