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Research shows that news stories about Veterans can significantly influence public perceptions of Veterans and, by extension, the quality of life Veterans and their Families experience in civilian communities.

News stories that share details of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other mental health concerns or suicide within the Veteran community can amplify negative stereotypes and create harm.

Examples of stereotypes and/or stigmatizing messages we hear and see in media, including in news, television, movies and on social media include:

  • Language, stories or imagery that focus on negative attributes (for example, being angry, withdrawn or bitter)
  • Inappropriate and inaccurate metaphors, such as “snap at any moment,” “triggered,” or “ticking time bomb”
  • Storytelling that describes or implies Family members as submissive to an “alpha” military member or Veteran

When members of the media discuss experiences of Veterans and Families, it’s important to avoid one-dimensional characterizations of military and Veteran culture and instead highlight the diversity of individual contexts and experiences. It’s also important to highlight help-seeking, supports and the resilience of the Veteran and Family community.

Reporting about Veterans and Families should be respectful, honest, accurate and compassionate because the stories we tell — and the words we use — matter. They have an impact on people and communities.


The following resources aim to help Veterans, Families and journalists better understand the impacts messages in the media can have on the Veteran community, and what the media can do to tell stories that are balanced and accurately reflect the complexity of Veteran and Family experiences.

Tackling harmful stereotypes can promote Veterans’ mental health

An opinion piece, Tackling harmful stereotypes can promote Veterans’ mental health, penned by Brian McKenna, retired Warrant Officer and Atlas Institute’s National Strategic Advisor for Veterans, and Dr. Robert Whitley of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University, encourages Canadians to see beyond Hollywood-inspired stereotypes of Veterans. It outlines the responsibility journalists have to report about Veterans in a holistic way, moving beyond stereotypes to chronicle the diversity of Veterans’ experiences.

Webinar: The power of the media — Impact on Veterans’ stories

This webinar brought together Veterans, Veteran Families and journalists to discuss media coverage of issues related to the Veteran community and the corresponding impacts. Moderated by CTV news anchor Graham Norton, panellists discussed historical and current trends in Canadian media coverage about the military and Veterans and the lasting impact of this coverage on Veterans and Veteran Families. Panellists also made recommendations on how media can cover stories in a trauma-informed way that respects the resilience of diverse Veterans and Families.

Media guidelines for reporting on Veterans, with a focus on PTSD and suicide

Members of the media can use these dos and don’ts to avoid stigmatizing stereotypes when reporting about mental health, PTSD and suicide in the Veteran community.

Media guidelines for reporting on Veterans, with a focus on PTSD and suicide


To raise awareness of the influence media can have on quality of life for the Veteran community, the Atlas Institute has funded research led by Dr. Robert Whitley that investigates the current state of Canadian media related to the mental health of Veterans and Veteran Families. We also aim to promote best practices for journalists looking to collaborate with members of the Veteran community on news stories.


This study assesses the tone and content of Canadian media coverage of military Veterans, with a focus on PTSD and suicide, by documenting and analyzing media coverage, examining common themes and articles related to PTSD and assessing the extent to which guidelines for responsible reporting on suicide were followed.

Veterans in the media: Assessing Canadian newspaper coverage of the Lionel Desmond murder-suicide

This study assesses the tone and content of media coverage of the Lionel Desmond murder-suicide, compares reporting recommendations for suicide and mental illness in Canadian newspaper articles, and analyzes common themes and narratives in media coverage on this particular case.

Explore this infographic summarizing the research on the stigma and stereotypes that exist in current reporting about issues relating to Veteran mental health.

Webinar: Words matter — Guidelines for journalists when reporting on Veterans

This webinar included a presentation of the Veterans in the media research study findings commissioned by the Atlas Institute and featured a panel of Veterans, Family members, journalists and academics discussing key considerations and best practices when reporting on issues related to the Veteran community. The panel also provided guidance for Veterans and Families on how to prepare for an interview with members of the media.

Learn more about key messages shared at the event.


If the media approaches you about acting as a source or being interviewed for a news or other story, don’t feel rushed to say yes, even if they are working to a deadline or there is time sensitivity.

Ask journalists or other people from the media:

  • What news media or company they work for
  • How much experience they have and what their background is
  • Whether they have subject-matter knowledge about the military or Veteran and Family experience — and in what areas
  • What formats the story will it be shared in (e.g. news article, feature story, long format, video, sound bites)
  • How your interview will be published or shared (e.g. newspaper, magazine, TV, social media)
  • What the focus of their article is and how will they frame the issues
  • How the article will incorporate a trauma-informed approach and what references to supports and stories of resilience will be included

You can also share these media guidelines with them.

Remember: They need you as a source and should take the time to build trust so you feel comfortable giving your consent. If you aren’t comfortable, say no. You can also consider how you might share your story on your own terms (if that is something you want to do).


All information on this page has been developed based on the research findings of Dr. Robert Whitley and an advisory committee of Veterans, Families, academics and members of the media. We have also referenced key points raised by moderators and panellists in project webinars.

We’d like to thank all advisory committee members for providing key input and insights throughout this project, including all research studies and corresponding resources, and for championing the improvement of the quality of collaborations between members of the media and Veteran Families.

The names listed include only the individuals who have provided explicit consent to be presented on the Atlas Institute website.

  • Gavin Adamson, professor of journalism, Toronto Metropolitan University
  • Neel Hasan, serving military reserve member and McGill graduate
  • Robert Thibeau, CD, Regular Force Captain (Ret’d), proud Métis