Reporting on health and medical topics inevitably involves minefields, especially in topics already rife with stigma, such as mental health. Despite the strides made in the U.S. in destigmatizing mental health issues, subtopics within the field remain frequently misunderstood and unfairly represented — and journalists sometimes inadvertently contribute to that.
Such is the case with reporting on addiction. AHCJ members already have shown outstanding reporting on addiction: a whopping four winners of the 2016 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism were stories about opioid addiction.
Yet there’s always more to learn, and journalists just dipping their toe into the topic may not have learned what works, what doesn’t, what helps, what hurts, and what language is most appropriate to use to avoid inadvertent stigmatization or shaming. That’s where an upcoming webcast on addiction reporting can help.
All AHCJ members are invited to join Tom Hill, M.S.W., vice president of addiction and recovery, National Council for Behavioral Health, at noon ET/9 a.m. PT on Aug. 24 for a half-hour webcast focused on the pitfalls that can occur in reporting on addiction and how to avoid them, including being conscientious about the language used in stories. The session also will address the science of addiction, effective treatments and the experience of recovery. As AHCJ’s Medical Studies Topic Leader, I will moderate the webcast, and time will be reserved for your questions.
Hill has pointed out that the media often does not focus enough on aspects of withdrawal and recovery when it comes to reporting on addiction. In addition, some articles unwittingly reinforce stereotypes or stigmatize misconceptions, such as portraying addiction as a moral failing rather than a chronic disease. Hill will discuss his experience as a person in recovery as well as ways journalists can do their job in objectively reporting on the scientific, social and personal aspects of addiction.
Webcast participants must be AHCJ members. You can find more information here. Read more about Hill in his professional biography:
Tom Hill began at the National Council for Behavioral Health in March 2017, serving as vice president of addiction and recovery. Hill previously served as a presidential appointee in the position of senior advisor on addiction and recovery to the SAMHSA Administrator. As part of this post, he initially served as acting director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Prior to his appointment, he was a senior associate at Altarum Institute, serving as technical assistance director for a number of SAMHSA treatment and recovery support grant initiatives. He served for four years as director of programs at Faces & Voices of Recovery. Hill’s personal experience of recovery from addiction spans over two decades. Reflecting his commitment to the goal of long-term recovery for individuals, families, and communities, Hill has also served on numerous boards of directors, advisory boards, committees, and task force/working groups. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Johnson Institute America Honors Recovery Award, the NALGAP Advocacy Award, and a Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship in the Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse initiative.