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Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use, Class and Social Standing

social-emotional learning (SEL)

Social-emotional learning, or social and emotional learning, often shorthanded as SEL, refers to the learning of concepts like stress management, impulse control, problem-solving, and clear communication, to help understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The concept of SEL has become part of larger controversies around what can or should be taught in schools, with critics arguing SEL is being used to “indoctrinate” students to progressive cultural values. This has led to initiatives in at least two dozen states attempting to restrict SEL. Helpful context would describe the potential effects of these proposed restrictions and how the concept of social-emotional learning has in some instances become divorced from the term itself as a buzzword stoking political divides. It may also be useful to ground coverage in the specific practices and activities being taught in the learning environment you’re reporting on, so the audience can base their understanding on the concrete experiences of students and teachers.

Class and Social Standing, Borders and Populations, Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

climate grief

Climate grief refers to the grief stemming from loss or anticipated losses of ecosystems, species, and landscapes across the globe, due to the effects of environmental destruction and climate change. Anyone can experience climate grief, though some experts say Indigenous peoples may experience it more acutely. When reporting on climate change, accurately identifying even small signs of progress can ensure that your coverage does not unnecessarily stoke climate anxiety or grief.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use, Borders and Populations

adverse childhood experiences

Adverse childhood experiences are incidents of abuse, neglect, and dysfunction in the home that occur under the age of 18. They can have lasting effects on mental, emotional, and physical health. Interventions early on such as counseling, trauma therapy or support from other adults and caretakers can lead to positive experiences and prevention and recovery from adverse experiences. Careful coverage will consider strengths and limitations of the ACEs framework and take into account both individual/family-level solutions as well as institutional and policy changes that can help address the factors that contribute to the prevalence of ACEs.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use


Psychedelics, or hallucinogens, are defined as a class of psychoactive substances that can alter mood, perception and cognition, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. The process of taking hallucinogens is referred to as tripping. Psychedelics can cause hallucinations as the name suggests, but also euphoria, relaxation, confusion, clumsiness, vomiting, and other effects. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.1 million people used hallucinogens in the past year. These drugs remain illegal at the federal level; careful coverage will take into account any potential risks to sources when reporting on the subject.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

cannabis / marijuana

Marijuana or cannabis is a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. The two main compounds of the plant used commercially are THC (what is found in marijuana/cannabis and can have psychoactive effects when ingested) and CBD, which is non-psychoactive and has become a popular additive in food and drinks, bath products, and more. Marijuana may be the term most familiar to US audiences, but cannabis is also very common. Various organizations or news outlets opt for one term or the other, or use both interchangeably. Some critics of the term marijuana say it has a history rooted in demonizing Mexican immigrants. Some advocates prefer the term cannabis for emphasizing the medicinal qualities of the drug. There are also many more colloquial terms for the drug, such as pot, weed, ganja, etc., though not all may be familiar to audiences and may be less clear outside of direct quotes. When choosing terminology, it may be helpful for clarity to consider the wording used by your source materials (the Food and Drug Administration, for instance, generally uses “marijuana,” while members of the commercial industry may use the term cannabis) and to provide a brief definition of how the term is being used in context. Balanced coverage will take into account the racial disparities that exist in both marijuana-related arrest rates and opportunities to participate in the commercial cannabis market. The drug remains illegal at the federal level; careful coverage will take into account any potential risks to sources when reporting on the subject.

Gender and Sexuality, Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

rape culture

Rape culture is based on enduring gender inequities that normalizes and justifies sexual violence. Manifestations of rape culture in media coverage can involve, for instance, describing what a rape victim wore, using the term “sex” to describe a rape or sexual assault (which implies consent), and including stereotypes of rape victims and survivors in general. 

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

child sexual abuse material

Child sexual abuse material is any content that depicts sexual activity with an individual under the legal age of consent. It is also called child pornography, online child abuse material, or child exploitation material. The US Department of Justice uses the term child pornography in legal proceedings. Some activists recommend against this term, saying the word “pornography” can conflate it with adult sexual material rather than keeping the focus on the harm done to the child. Child sexual abuse material inherently involves the exploitation and traumatization of its participants, and consumers promote and fund crimes against children, so a sensitivity to the victims/survivors is paramount in news coverage.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use, Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness


Neurodiversity refers to the presence of many different types of minds throughout the human race, all of which have valuable characteristics. The term aims to categorize autism, ADHD, and other developmental conditions as naturally occurring traits in the human population rather than pathologies to be “cured.” A group or population can be neurodiverse, but a single person cannot, and the term generally isn’t used in a person-first way (e.g., “a person with neurodiversity”). An individual could be referred to as a neurominority or neurologically marginalized, or described with their diagnosis; some also call themselves “neurodivergent.”