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Competition Guidelines 

In order to keep this competition safe and respectful, all essay submission must follow the media guidelines as set out by the Mental Health Foundation.

Please ensure that these guidelines are carefully read through and considered. If a submitted essay does not comply with these guidelines, the entry will be subject to disqualification. 

These guidelines will equip you with the confidence and understanding to write on mental illness and mental health issues safely, accurately and respectfully. One in five Kiwis will experience a mental health problem this year, and more than half of us will go through distress or mental illness at some point in our lives.

Writing holds great power and can influence public opinion about people with mental illness in positive and negative ways. People’s attitudes can reinforce stigma and lead to discrimination, which is a barrier to recovery and being able to live a full life.


When handled well, writing about mental health can:

  • change public misconceptions

  • challenge myths and educate people about mental health

  • change attitudes that reinforce mental illness stigma and lead to discrimination

  • encourage people in distress to seek help

  • support hope and recovery.

When handled poorly, writing about mental health can:

  • make it less likely that people experiencing mental distress will ask for help

  • mislead the public about what experiences of mental illness and mental health care are like

  • reinforce misguided beliefs that people living with a mental illness are dangerous and to be feared

  • increase feelings of shame and isolation for people experiencing distress.


  • Sources: Information about mental illness, treatments and the sector are changing constantly. For reliable, accurate and up-to-date information consult widely with experts in the sector and the Mental Health Foundation.

  • Balance: Include the voice of people who have experience of mental illness and/or use mental health services, along with their whānau, support people, kaumātua or kuia where relevant. Also consider showing people as more than their illness.

  • Cultural sensitivities: Ensure different cultural worldviews on mental health and wellbeing are considered. Seek expert cultural opinion or perspective from kaumātua, kuia and Pasifika mātua

The full Media Guidelines set out by the Mental Health Foundation are here at

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