May 18, 2021 – A free plugin has been launched to help reduce stigma surrounding mental illness.
Canadian journalist Karissa Gall teamed up with the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma to launch the free “Media Guide-o-Matic” plugin on the widely-used WordPress platform.
Similar to how spell-checking tools automatically check for spelling mistakes, Media Guide-o-Matic automatically checks draft WordPress posts for words and phrases that have been identified as contributors to stigma in the third edition of Mindset: Reporting on Mental Health.
Stigma can cause people to avoid seeking mental health treatment, under-reporting of illness, and under-provision of mental health services. At the same time, with everyone’s mental health being tested by the pandemic, asking for help is more important than ever.
Gall said she conceptualized the plugin to save time for journalists who want to highlight critical mental health issues such as these without contributing to stigma.
“I realized that even though the Mindset guide was available to the media, reputable news organizations were still perpetuating stigma by using the wrong words and phrases in their stories,” said Gall. “Journalists on deadline need user-friendly tools, like spell-checking, to improve their reporting, which is how I got the idea for Media Guide-o-Matic.”
For example, if you type the phrase “committed suicide” into a WordPress post with the plugin enabled, when you hit either “Save Draft” or “Publish,” the plugin will alert you to the fact that Mindset advises against using that phrase, because it implies illegality or moral failing. If you want to make changes, you can return to the editor. Or, if you want to ignore the alert, you can click “Proceed Anyway.”
If there are no words or phrases that go against the best practices outlined in the guide, the plugin does—nothing!
Gall worked with Ottawa-based digital marketing firm Flewid to develop the plugin, with partial funding from the Forum. She said the tool was developed for WordPress because it is the most popular content management system in the world.
“My hope is that newsrooms and other types of organizations around the world will download and enable this free tool,” she said. “As André Picard wrote in the foreword for Mindset, journalists should be as willing to write about depression as breast cancer. This plugin will help them do so ethically and efficiently, with confidence.”
Alerts and advice for words and phrases related to suicide, mental illness and violence, schizophrenia, review board hearings, addiction and more are included as part of the plugin.
“Thousands of journalists across Canada use the Mindset guide, but it’s still easy to fall back into old habits when you’re on deadline,” said Forum president Cliff Lonsdale. “This plugin is a very handy safety net. It’s a great idea. We were pleased to be able to help make Karissa’s project possible.”
The Forum is an educational charity concerned with the physical and emotional wellbeing of journalists, their audiences and those on whom they report. Aspects of its work are supported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, The Globe and Mail, CBC News, Radio-Canada, Canada Life and Cision.
To view an explainer video about the plugin, visit https://vimeo.com/253338664.
To download the plugin, visit https://wordpress.org/plugins/media-guide-o-matic-alert/.
For further information about the plugin, contact developer Karissa Gall at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information about Mindset, contact Jane Hawkes, Executive Producer, Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma, 1-519 852-4946, email@example.com.