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Feds to Educate Entertainment Media on 'Appropriate Terminology' for Mental/Substance Use Disorders

8:02 AM, Aug 27, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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The Department of Health and Human Services is looking to school the entertainment industry media when it comes to reporting on substance abuse and mental health disorders. In a notice posted this week on behalf of HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency indicates its desire to show the entertainment industry "how the use of language can affect the broader community as it relates to mental and/or substance use disorder issues." SAMHSA intends to examine the "anatomy of current language that is used to refer to persons in recovery" by entertainment media and replace it with "appropriate terminology."

The vehicle chosen by SAMHSA to instruct the media is a series of live panel-discussion webcasts to be produced by the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) of Reston, Virginia. The government intends to award a contract to EIC unless another vendor can demonstrate by September 2nd its ability to duplicate what EIC has to offer. The EIC is a non-profit founded in 1983 by entertainment industry leaders "to provide information, awareness and understanding of major health and social issues among the entertainment industries and to audiences at large." HHS notes that EIC has partnered with organizations such as the News Corporation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and FX Networks in an effort to see health and social issues portrayed realistically in films, TV, music, and even comic books.

The target audience for the webcasts is not simply writers, but producers, production staff (technical and non-technical), and entertainment industry magazine editors, as well. Webcast participants will include "persons in recovery from mental and or substance use disorders" in addition to social marketing and behavioral health professionals. The former group will share "potential negative consequences of not using appropriate language" and provide "examples of experiences lived by those in recovery as a result."

HHS has contracted with EIC in the past to produce Entertainment Industry Public Health Education Webinars (2013), to help organize Major League Baseball events for Recovery Month (2009), as well as various public health campaigns over the years at least as far back as 2004. The organization has also done work for the Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control.

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