Kate Fitch

Communicating mental illness and suicide: Public relations students' perceptions of ethical practice

Mental illness and suicide are complex issues which have significant social and economic implications. This study investigates the perceptions of public relations students in Australia towards ethics, following exposure to resources developed to educate students about the ethical challenges in communicating mental health issues. The findings suggest students recognise ambiguity around 'professional' ethics in relation to these issues; the need for personal responsibility in ethical public relations practice; that ethical development is incremental; and that they learn most effectively through major assignments. The study includes recommendations for the teaching of ethics in relation to complex issues such as mental health

Keywords: Public relations, ethics, education, mental illness, suicide


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Note on the contributor

Kate Fitch is academic chair of public relations at Murdoch University in Australia. Kate received an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2011, and has written book chapters and journal articles on public relations pedagogy, global public relations, community relations, social media, gender, and public relations in Southeast Asia. Her research interests include public relations education and theory. Before joining the university, she worked in public relations roles in arts and government sectors in the UK and Australia. She has published in Prism, Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, Higher Education Research and Development and the Journal of University Learning and Teaching Practice. Recent articles include Developing professionals: student experiences of a real-client project (2011) and Working girls: Revisiting the gendering of public relations (2010), co-authored with Amanda Third. Contact details: School of Media Communication & Culture, Murdoch University, South St, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia. Email: k.fitch@murdoch.edu.au; tel: +618 9360 6149.