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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.

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, 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.”

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

applied behavior analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis is a method of modifying behaviors in autistic children through behaviorist techniques (i.e., rewards and punishments). ABA remains one of the most common behavioral interventions of autism; alternatives include occupational therapy and structured teaching. The effectiveness of ABA is under debate, and some consider the practice abusive. Exploring these debates helps ensure thoughtful coverage of differing practices and viewpoints within the autism community.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use


Psychotherapy is the process of working with a professional provider to address behaviors, beliefs, emotions, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses that are causing distress. Psychotherapists treat a range of conditions and use diverse methods, each with its own defining techniques and suitability for treating specific diagnoses. Reporting that implies all a person needs to do to treat a mental health condition is to, for instance, take daily walks or deep breaths is both inaccurate and can stigmatize help-seeking via professional psychotherapy.

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

mental illness

Mental illness is a phrase used in mental health research to measure prevalence and seriousness of disorders that interfere with daily functioning. The frame of illness can be helpful in reinforcing that clinical mental health conditions are health issues and not personal failings. But the term can also carry negative connotations, so context matters when deciding when and how to use it. “Mental health condition” is a more expansive term. 

Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Use

psychiatric medications

Psychiatric medications are prescribed to shift emotions and thought patterns by adjusting brain chemistry in people with mental health conditions. They are also called mental health medications or psychotropic medications. Clinicians will often combine these medications with psychotherapy and other treatments for maximum effectiveness in relieving symptoms including anxiety and depression. Common myths related to psychiatric medications include that they are a “cop-out” or short-term solution, that they dull one’s personality, or that they are no more effective than placebos. Citing statistics that put individual stories of medication use in context, and bringing in an expert for analysis, can go a long way to ensure thoughtful coverage.