Empowering Future Practitioners: A Curriculum Approach to Enhance ‘Response Able’ Communication about Mental Health Issues.

Jaelea Skehan, Robina Xavier, Siobhain Lowthe


The power of public relations to shape community attitudes is well documented but with it comes professional responsibility. Mental illness and suicide are two key social issues requiring the profession of public relations to consider its role. This paper reports on the development process and pilot evaluation of a federally funded educational initiative designed to empower public relations undergraduates to consider the impact of communication on public understandings of, and responses to specific social and health issues. While the curriculum materials focus on mental illness and suicide, the process has application to other areas of social responsibility. The curriculum resources reflect the model of empowerment and capacity building, avoiding proscription or censorship but offering emerging practitioners tools and knowledge to make their own informed decisions about the way in which they can responsibly communicate in practice.


Public Relations; Community Attitudes; Professional Responsibility; Social Issues; Mental Illness.

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The University of Newcastle
ISSN - 1839-8227