The Power of Language and Portrayals SAMHSA Blog

By: Kimberly A. Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” has been chanted for years from one kid to another when harsh words are spoken. But, in reality, words can hurt more than sticks and stones. SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment is producing a webcast series, The Power of Language and Portrayals: What We Hear, What We See, to help change the way we talk about and portray substance use in news and entertainment.

With support from the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc., a new series of webcasts will educate television and radio producers, screenwriters, entertainment journalists and authors as well as the public on the best possible language to use when discussing substance use disorders. The webcasts will also discuss how to improve the portrayal of characters with these conditions and promote a healthier presentation of these topics, free of biased and discriminatory overtones.

The webcast series will feature experts from the field on substance use disorders, treatment and recovery services available to individuals and families in their communities.  Professionals from the entertainment community will participate in the discussion as well as individuals in recovery from substance use disorders.

The series begins in February 2017 and topics include:

  • Trauma and Peer Engagement – airs February 9, 2017
  • Treatment & Recovery – Research to Practice – airs March 23, 2017
  • Inside Treatment and Recovery – a Look at the Transition – airs April 27, 2017
  • Substance Use Disorders and other Health Related Issues in Primary Care – airs June 8, 2017

Some most compelling stories we hear in life and in fiction are of people who are facing serious issues. Stories of how families deal with the disease of addiction are certainly worth telling. It takes courage to find hope, health and happiness in a life of recovery.  Through the accurate depiction of these issues, we can change the culture and embrace those who need services as well as those living in long term recovery.

For more information and to see the webcast program abstracts, visit the Power of Language and Portrayals webcast website.

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