Words matter: How to use frames effectively to advance child mental health

Content type
Event date

26 August 2020, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Nat Kendall-Taylor, Annette Michaux, Vikki Leone, Victoria Parker




This webinar was held on Wednesday 26 August.

It is relatively common for children to experience mental health problems. Yet, without a shared understanding of child mental health between parents, communities and service providers, many do not receive the support they need. Getting the language of child mental health right is a crucial step in building this shared understanding, connecting children to necessary supports and preventing mental health difficulties into the future.

This webinar was the second in a two-part series exploring the importance of language in advancing child mental health. Building on a past CFCA webinar that focused on changing how we communicate with parents, this webinar explored better ways of talking about child wellbeing. Specifically, it:

  • reviewed the evidence about what works in framing child wellbeing
  • explored the use of frames when working directly with families, and in communicating research to influence child wellbeing policy
  • shared insights about how one community is reframing child development to improve parental engagement and outcomes for kids.

This webinar is of interest to professionals working with children and families in health, education and social and community service settings.

Find out more about the first webinar in this series here: Words matter: Getting the language of child mental health right.

Audio transcript (edited)

MR BOWDEN: Hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar, Words Matter, how to use frames effectively to advance child mental health. So my name's Mitchell Bowden, I'm the manager of engagement and impact within the knowledge translation and impact team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

I'd first like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we're meeting. In Melbourne, the traditional custodians are the Wurundjeri and the Bununrong people of the Kulin Nation. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present and to Elders from any other communities who may be participating today.

Today's the second of two webinars we've run this month, exploring the importance of language in supporting children's mental health and wellbeing. So welcome back to all of those who joined us for part one and for those who didn't, don't worry, the recording's on the CFCA website for you to watch at any time. So in today's webinar, we'll be focusing on the idea of framing. And how to use frames effectively when communicating about child mental health.

Our presenters will be looking at the evidence about what works in framing child wellbeing and sharing some of their experiences of using frames in a range of different ways, including working directly with families, in campaigns and social marketing and when communicating research to influence policy around child wellbeing. So now without further ado, it's my pleasure to introduce our wonderful presenters. Nat Kendall-Taylor, Annette Michaux, Vikki Leone and Victoria Parker.

So Nat is the CEO of the FrameWorks Institute where he leads a multi-disciplinary team in conducting research on public understanding and framing of social issues and also supports non-profit organisations to implement these findings. Today Nat's actually recorded his presentation ahead of time, to help manage the time difference in where he is in the United States and also the challenges associated with international internet connections. And you can still send through any questions you have for him, specifically for Nat and we'll make sure that we follow-up with him after the webinar.

We also have Annette who is a director at the Parenting Research Centre, give us a wave, Annette. An organisation dedicated to finding evidence-based solutions to support families and their parenting. Annette's played a sector-wide role in partnership with the FrameWorks Institute and other community and government organisations to implement the findings of the reframing parenting project.

We've got Vikki Leone and she's the Knowledge Translation Manager at the Centre for Community Child Health within the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. In this role, Vikki facilitates strategic communications and applies the best available research and knowledge to progress policy and practice. And lastly, we've got Victoria Parker. Victoria's been a key part of the Logan Together Backbone team for the last three years. And during that time has fallen in love with the Logan community. Victoria's a nationally awarded marketing communication professional, with over 18 years and experience working in the private and public sectors, with a passion for community, family and housing-related work.

So first up, we're going to play Nat's presentation, the one that has been pre-recorded ahead of time. It goes for a little bit – a little bit over 30 minutes and then we'll come back to our discussion with Annette, Vikki and Victoria. Thanks.

MR KENDALL-TAYLOR: Hello everybody. How are you all doing? Hope everyone's doing well. Hanging in there and ready to hear a half an hour of an action-packed webinar about framing child mental health. I'm really if you can't tell, excited to be here with you all and to have the chance to talk about framing. So, before I get started I want to – I want to tell you a little bit more about myself. Where I come from in terms of my disciplinary background is actually really important for what I'm going to be talking with you all about today.

So I am by training, even though I'm going to be talking about communication, I'm not a communication professional by my background. Or by training, I'm not someone who studies child mental health or practitioner, I'm an anthropologist by training and I do a particular kind of anthropology which is called psychological anthropology. Which means that I study culture and how it influences the way that people think. How people use culture to process information, to make meaning of messages and importantly to formulate and reach decisions. And this is kind of the core of what I'm going to be taking you through today.

So what we're going to be doing for the rest of this half an hour, is answering – I'm going to try to answer for you two questions. So we're going to talk a little bit at the beginning about what framing is to try to establish a common definition and in so doing, provide an understanding of why this concept, why this thing of framing is important and can add value. And second, I want to take you through some of the things that I have learned and that the organisation that I lead, the FrameWorks Institute, has learned about framing child mental health in particular.

And I should say at the beginning that some of this work was conducted in the US over the last 15 or so years, but there's also a substantial part which you'll see when I get into the work that drives us from research that has been conducted over the last 10 years, right here or right there in Australia. So without further ado, let's jump right in. So framing, again to establish a common definition of this thing, that's worth it is so ubiquitously used that I feel like it has lost any and all meaning it ever once had a common definition. So what we mean for the next 27 minutes when we talk about framing it's about – so when we say framing we mean, the choices that we make and how we present information. And this can be either really kind of small and insignificant choices, the pronouns that we use. Do we say us and them or do we say we? And sometimes the very kind of more obvious choices that we make, the values that we use to argue for why an issue is important and why addressing it matters, that all of those choices, framing as well, all of those choices on how we present information, affect how people feel, how they think and what they do. So variations of how we present information and I'll show you this in a second and how these variations affect people's perceptions, their thinking, but also their behaviour, their actions. And so to kind of make this concrete and bring this down to earth, well this kind of academic ears that you see on the screen in front of you right now. I'm going to talk you through two examples.

But this is particular research by a group of social psychologists at the University of Texas, Austin, who are investigating how the choices that we make and how we present information to middle schoolers, Grades 7 and Grades 8, so when kids are between 12 and 14, the school-age years, how our choices in presenting information about nutrition to middle schoolers affect the choices that they make in – the kind of nutrition choices that they make, the food choices that they make.

So in this study, in this experiment, they worked with middle schoolers from three different geographically different schools in the United States and some of those middle schoolers received a message which is kind of the traditional public health message, I don't know if you have the same thing in Australia, but there's a very traditional American public health message about nutrition. It normally has the food pyramid and advises you or advises the person to you know, to make better and more responsible choices, about the foods you consume. Right? So kind of an information plus finger-wagging kind of message.

Other middle schoolers received a very different message about power and there's the food marketing industry and the way that the industry manipulates consumers through advertising to make certain choices that are actually not in the best interests of those consumers to begin with. So kind of a fight the power, stick it to the mankind of a message.

And then a third group of middle schoolers were in a controlled condition, they got no message at all. And then when they did, after exposing middle schoolers to this message, a couple of weeks later, they began measuring the food choices that these middle schoolers were making in the school cafeteria. So the products that they purchased from vending machines, what they bought in the lunch line and they found a really interesting result. So those students who received the kind of corporate manipulation, corporate malfeasance message, were dramatically more likely than any other student to choose healthy food options in the cafeteria. Right? So the way that this information was framed in this case had a clear effect on, a measurable effect on behaviour.

I think it's also interesting to note that the traditional kind of information plus finger-wagging, public health message, had no discernible effect on food choices. So hearing that message made students no more likely to choose healthy food options than unhealthy food options. So to me, this is a great example of what framing is and importantly why it matters. It's the ability to influence, in this case, nutrition choices, diet choices. So one is a little bit, the second example, a little bit closer to home in terms of issues, this is about child mental health, but still far away in terms of geography. This is from work that we've done, this is an organisation in the United States, a long-time partner called the Harvard Centre on the developing child. It's a group of developmental scientists who have as their mission, taking learning, finding, from research and translating it, such as to influence policy and practice, decisions around early childhood. So for a long time, this group has really struggled to be able to communicate clearly and effectively about child mental health.

So, first of all, to convince Americans that young children can even have mental health let alone that they should be supportive of policies designed to address or to support children's mental health. So our task in this work was to figure out some ways of framing messages to choices to make in communication that would make people more supportive, more willing to get behind a set of evidence-based policies. So that is the experiment that you see in front of you right now. This was conducted with about 6,000 Americans to be nationally representative in the all categories you would think of, age, race, gender, political ideology, residential location, religion, family type – I could go on, you get it.

And so the way that this experiment works is, each of these 6,000 people is randomly assigned – just so you know, that's the noise of random assignment in case you're not a social scientist. Each of these 6,000 people gets randomly assigned to one of three different groups. So if Mitch logs-on, he gets randomly assigned to the value of future progress social prosperity, so you see the messages along the horizontal axis of the graph. Mitch would read about a program that supports child mental health and at the top of that message would be the frame and it's a values frame. So he would read – he would be introduced to read about this program with something that sounds like, we need to do a better job of addressing child mental health because. And we wouldn't say it in such a clichéd way but children are our future.

Right their solid, stable mental health is key to our ability to advance as a society and to be prosperous. Annette logs-on and she gets randomly assigned to the value of vulnerability. So she would read the same text about the program, the same 80 words, except the first sentence is different. So instead of being about future progress and social prosperity, Annette would read something like, it's important that we do a better job of supporting children's mental health because children are our most vulnerable citizens. They deserve our empathy and our compassion and we must do a better job at supporting them because of their vulnerability.

And then there's a third condition, so Vicki logs-on, randomly assigned to the control condition. So message this time. I'm sorry to say Vicki that you are the thin zero line that we see on the screen right now. Against to which the other two conditions are compared. So regardless of what group the person is assigned to, they all answer the same set of questions that are designed to measure how supportive they are of a set of evidence-based child mental health policies.

So when I click the next click which you're going to see on the screen are two gorgeous green bars are going to appear. And what those gorgeous green bars are going to show you is the degree of which hearing those primes, those frames affect people's support for these policies. And when I make this click you see two bars and you notice hopefully two things. So first of all the value that Mitch was exposed to, the way that his first sentence was framed makes people to a statistically significant degree, more supportive of the set of evidence-based policies. So that's good news, there's like a little framing dance that we do, I'm not going to do it for you right now, lucky for you. But you probably notice as most people do, as your eyes wander towards the right-hand side of the screen, that the value that Annette and those in the group that she was assigned to, received – has the opposite effect.

So not only is it indistinguishable from zero, which is no message. But it actually decreases people's support for the policies that we are measuring. So just to translate that for you, if you're an expert or an advocate working on child mental health in the United States and you frame your message through the value of vulnerability. You not only waste your words, your breath, your communication assets and resources. But you use those valuable resources in a way that directly disadvantages those things that you are trying to achieve.

So the real kicker is that in the subsequent piece of analysis where we looked at all of the field's external-facing material, so websites up and blogs, press releases, you know, mission statements, everything over a three year period. Guess which value we found to be the orienting frame in over 90 per cent of those communications? And that is – will have to be a rhetorical question because you can't respond. That is the value of vulnerability. So in essence, what the field had been doing for a really long time with, in retrospect with a shocking amount of resources is obviously, unintentionally framing their communication with a value that not only wasted those communications. But actually used them in a way that worked against the goals that they had for policy and practice change.

So I started to use this metaphor of a key to help me think about framing. And what I mean by this metaphor, what those examples hopefully show is that framing, the way that we position our communication, has this really powerful, potential role to play in unlocking new conversations. And opening people up to consider new ideas and perspectives and in advancing peoples thinking. And encouraging them to be able to engage with new solutions and changes to our policies and practices. So that's the good version of the key right, unlocking you know, an open space to move into.

But unfortunately, frames, as you saw in the vulnerability case, can have the opposite effect. Right they can shut down conversations, they can close down space, they can halt or interrupt thinking. And they can kind of hamper us from moving issues and ideas forward and getting the kind of support that we need for the kinds of changes that are required to more fully and comprehensively support children, families, communities and society. So where all of this begins is a place that I find myself in at least once a year on Thanksgiving when we're around the table with my in-laws. Which is a situation that looks something like this. And I imagine, well I know that if you are someone who communicates about ideas, and that's everybody, you have at one point or another found yourself in this pickle, right?

In this situation that see on the screen where you think you have the perfect way of talking about executive function, or brain development or parenting. And you try that way of framing your issue out with two of your closest colleagues who are also experts on the very same issues and you find that is awesome right? It moves your colleagues, it gets them to lean in, it gets them to see the importance of solution. And then you take this brilliant idea out into the world where normal people live right? Where people who don't live and eat and sleep breathe issues that you do all day every day. And you find that one or two unfortunate things happens.

So first of all, that thing that was so gripping and resonant for you and your two closest colleagues just isn't for people who don't have such strong conviction and kind of a professional orientation to the issue. It kind of goes in one ear and out the other. The second thing that happens is, it's still somewhat frequent but I think more unfortunate is that thing which sent you and your two closest colleagues running toward the direction of a certain perspective or a certain change. Actually sends the – the people you're communicating within the exact opposite direction. And I'm going to give you a quick example of what that looks like pulling from some work that Annette and I have done. Annette from the Parenting Research Centre and colleagues have done on parenting.

So people who work on parenting and kind of effective parenting say things like this. This is you know if we were in the same room I could look at Annette with kind of a knowing smile, nodded and she would look back at me with that same knowing smile and nod. Given the fact that she's probably in the course of her career said things that look very much like what you see on the screen right now. That parenting is a skill and like any other skill, it needs to be practised and supported. That with the right support and resources we can enable all parents to be effective.

And for people who work on parenting this is like really true. Like it's **truthity true all the way through true. Lots of research that supports this, lots of kind of experience and practice that supports this. But unfortunately, when messages like this make their way out into the general public you get things that look and sound like this. 'Any parent that just gives their kids lots of love and attention would be a good parent.' 'Yeah it's cyclical isn't it, so like if you were raised by shitty parents then you're probably gonna turn out to be a shitty parent.'

So I realise that may be a little bit hard to hear given some of the background noise so I'll make it crystal clear. That which you've just heard right? You know, if you parented poorly you're destined to be a bad parent is not what Annette intended when she opens her mouth to deliver this information. So there's happening between the intention and the delivery of this message and its actual reception and it's a fact. And not to leave you on the very edge of your seat for even a second longer, that thing is culture. And when we say culture here, we don't mean the kind of Indiana Jones artefact, archaeology kind of culture, which is still to this day what my parents unfortunately think I do. But rather culture in mind, right, culture as a set of shared, ways of understanding the world.

With patterns of reasoning, of assumptions that we have and walk around with us inside our heads. And we bring to understanding information that comes in front of us. And what I want to do now is take you specifically into a look, to give you a peek of what this – this culture – this kind of deep cognitive culture looks like, when it comes to issues of child mental health in Australia. So I'm going to show you, a set of clips from what we Americans call on the street interviews, what you Australians, in a much more, ** perbene way call vox pops.

Clips of us asking open-ended questions to people about child mental health. And what you'll see is the way that they respond, the way that they draw on culture to respond to these questions in very patterned ways. And so for the next two minutes, about a two-minute video, I want you to pretend to be an anthropologist and to be on the lookout for culture, to be on the lookout for the way for what you're hearing in these videos, evidence shows these deeper assumptions that people are making about young kids and how they work, their mental health and it's shaping how they reason about these topics.

(Recording played.)

So there you have it. Some indication of the culture that shapes how people think about child mental health. So I want to make a couple of points. I mean, I'm sure there's tonnes of things that you've done, and if we were in person I'd love to hear what those – what those are. But I think it's really important to point out that there's both ways of thinking in there that from the key perspective that, that lockup or shutdown thinking and keep people from engaging with concepts of child mental health so, this conflation of child mental health, that you saw at the beginning of the video, with child mental health problems, is really problematic if you're trying to introduce the concept of positive mental health that underlies resilience for example.

But other understandings that you see there, particularly the sense that there's a public government social responsibility for young children which, I would argue with is fairly anaemic and deficient in the culture where I live, but it's quite robust in Australia. That's one of those keys that you can activate and you can use to unlock and open productive ways for people to consider information about child mental health and to be more supportive of the kinds of programs and policies that are important in assuring that children have healthy mental states. So the graphic that you see in front of you right now and we can make this available to folks if it would be helpful afterwards, is a map.

It's a sense of the primary assumptions that you saw in that video that are really shaping the way that people engage with issues of child mental health. So you see, in the left-hand corner, there's one that I already referenced this idea or this assumption that people make that discussions of mental health are actually discussions of mental health problems. You saw a really interesting set of clips where people are kind of questioning or kind of debating whether young children can even have mental health, because they live in these kinds of simplified emotional worlds, they don't really have real experiences, they don't really remember, some people question whether they can even have – whether early child mental health is a real thing.

A lot of this preoccupation around threats of modernity, which you saw towards the end of the video. So as soon as people start thinking about social media and technology, that's kind of a runaway conversation and it really makes it hard to get people back to the conversation you're trying to have. But the important thing is that when you're able to see the culture and the assumptions that you're communicating into, there's three things that you become able to do as a communicator, as a strategic communicator, much more effectively, as compared to when you're not aware of those understandings that are kind of lurking under the surface, waiting to interact with communications and the messages that you deliver.

You can avoid specific cues that lock that door, that kind of shutdown thinking or that lead in a really unintended directions. You can identify in advance those cues that allow you to have productive conversations that open that space, that people can move through and consider your issue productively. And it allows you to focus your attention on the most important tasks, or the most important work that frames can help you do. So for the rest of our time I'm going to spin through very quickly a little bit more detail on the avoid, the advance and the focus.

So when we look at that map it allows us to see a set of things that we really need to be disciplined and actively avoid in the way that we frame, we position our messages. And so the first is, kind of this tendency that we have to lead with problems, right? And to reinforce in so doing people's assumption that they've developed over time through a steady and heavy diet of this practice, that when we're having discussions about mental health, we're actually having discussions about mental health problems.

We also need to be really careful about concepts of control, because of the way in which discussions about control and decisions kind of close people off to considering the role that context and relationships and environments play in mental health and to, when we talk about control, it's very easy for people to start to see mental health as a phenomenon that is determined by your will and your decision and your fortitude. Rather than understanding that people are influenced by the context in which they live.

We also need to, well we need to avoid an over-emphasis on problems. I think we also need to avoid the opposite which is kind of a **wooh, wooh sense of positive. A kind of positivism. If we frame our messages with the idea that kind of we're already doing well, this is an issue that we have a handle on, then you're very likely to get what you saw in that video, which is people say, you know, I think this is fairly well handled and therefore it doesn't warrant my attention, my consideration, my engagement and that is not where we want to lead people in terms of people's efficacy and their engagement with our messages.

We also need to watch out in the way that we frame childhood. Right, there is a way in which talking about children's worlds as being simple or simplified or overly basic, allows people to kind of move into a position where they actually question whether young children can even have mental health. And that is a conversation stopper immediately if we start our conversations there. And then as a caution towards something that very quickly as you saw in the video, derails conversation. We need to be very careful about how we frame technology and modernity as the bad guy just because once people start thinking about, you know, cell phones and social media. It's very hard to get that conversation back on track.

So while we need to avoid those things, there's a set of clear things that we need to advance that we can activate in our communications that set the channel for more productive thinking and engagement around issues of child mental health. So first is, we do want to counter that sense of mental health being about problems with a more balance positivism. That we need to get examples of positive mental health and not only examples of positive mental health but examples of what mental health does in front of people in a consistent and repeated way. We need to focus those conversations about mental health in a way that people can see that mental health is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. That mental health does things for us. It allows us to function and engage and learn and have relationships and all of these things that people connect with and that resonate very strongly for people.

We also need to work very diligently about always contextualising these conversations with child mental health and I realise that's kind of wonky contextualising but what I mean is we need to have conservations with people that kind of force them to see the environment shaped development and mental health and to not be able to default to these individualistic understanding of choice and will and individual fortitude and characteristic.

And finally, we need to take advantage of that fact that people are willing and able to go and ascribe public responsibility to this issue. We need to prime that. We need to evoke that. We need to be explicit about that sense of public responsibility because it is a powerful opener of more productive thinking around this issue.

So understanding culture and kind of what's in it also allows us to focus our frames and what this means is it allows us to identify a set of framing moves and tactics which are very important priority areas and a number of these I've referenced already. So I'll go through these pretty quickly.

But first of all, this research points clearly to the fact that we need to make mental health a means to an end. Healthy development, wellbeing, learning, health rather than an end in and of itself. That we need to make mental health relatedly into a functional concept. We need to talk about not what mental health is but what mental health does and a lot of the research that we've done, focus groups that I've led, experiments that we've ran, the difference between framing mental health in terms of what it does rather than what it is, is dramatic in terms of the kind of conversations and avenues for thinking that you can open up.

We need to make mental health a dynamic issue and frame it as such. We need to avoid people's tendency to think about mental health as kind of on or off, black or white. Either you have it or you don't and establish instead a sense that there is a continuum of mental health that people fluidly move between based on the experiences that they're having and how those experiences interact with ourselves, with our biology.

As I said, we need to force that kind of balance in terms of positive senses of mental health but we can't leave out the fact that there are challenges and there are mental health difficulties but what we really need to go for is a more balanced framing of this discourse.

I think it helps to make it personal. That if you ask people to identify and think about their own mental health and then move them to think about the mental health of children that can be a productive way of engaging. I think we all have a relatively easy time of identifying certain challenges to our own mental health and how that influences our life and I think that's a positive framing manoeuvre.

We need to contextualise the conversation. I've already said this but we need to make sure that this is a conversation not just about internal biology and psychology but that it's about people and places, about environments and relationships that shape the space of mental health. We need to make these conversations not just always about later. Not always about the future learning, the future health benefits. We need to make it clear that mental health is a – child mental health is a concept that has facts and impacts on families, on children right now in the moment. And finally, we need to make this an efficacious discussion. We need to make this a discussion in which people can see that there are solutions that work to address this issue and not just a preponderance of problems.

So in summary, if our goal is to start to shift and change this deceptively simple dream bubble of culture we need to answer a set of strategic questions. We need to figure out, not just what the frames but we need to figure out who is moving these frames, what they are saying, through which channels and which mobilisation mechanisms we're using. Who are audiences are, who we need to influence and to what effect and to be able to do this strategic work we do need to a framing strategy and that's largely what I've talked about, right?

But it's important to note that that's only a fifth of these questions that we need to answer and the important thing to realise is that we need to answer the other four, right? We need clearly figure out who the messenger is, what the channel is, who the audience is and what the effects are and that is work that I would characterise as being a mobilisation strategy and that is the work that Vikki, Victoria and Annette are going to talk to you about right now.

I'd like to just leave you with one of my new favourite quotes. So this is a quote from a guy named Charles Eisenstein who says, 'That the world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent it's first to disrupt the existing story of the world and second telling the new story of the world so that people have a place to go'. And with that I will say thank you and I'll encourage you all to frame on.

MR BOWDEN: Okay great. What a great presentation once we got it going and apologies again for those sort of few seconds of delay in getting the technical issues sorted. There's so much in there and now I'm really excited to be able to hear from Vikki, Victoria and Annette who have been putting this idea of framing and reframing into practice. I'll first handover to Annette to take us through her reflections on this work.

MS MICHAUX: Thank you so much, Mitch and I hope everyone can hear me okay as I'm going to talk for the next five minutes a bit more about some of the framing work we've done in Australia. Talking about this journey we've been on with a number of colleagues including Vikki and Victoria. The research we did around reframing parenting involved over 7,000 Australians. So it's had, you know, a large body of people involved to tell us about some of the reframing strategies.

In relation to supporting children's mental health we absolutely need parents feeling confident about coming forward, either for their own mental health and their own support needs or concerns they've got about their children. But what we learned through the reframing parenting research was that when we lead with talking about effective parenting or parenting advice messages we can actually drive people away. A bit like the healthier food choices message, about the vulnerability message that Nat talked about earlier.

We've learned through the research that it's far more effective to lead with child health and development rather than leading with talking about parenting and parents and what parents need. We can talk about that but don't talk about that first. But in terms of that focus that Nat spoke about, we now talk about children's development needs first and this really helps for a number of reasons. It focuses on children and what they need to thrive rather than kind of evaluating or slightly blaming parents. It establishes the importance of those interactions with parents to child development rather than assuming that young children kind of, if you simply care about them and love them they'll just grow. It helps people see that circumstances absolutely shape options rather than assuming that good parenting just comes naturally to individuals. So it really brings the context in which children grow and thrive into the conversation.

So a lot of our work's been about mobilising this and a whole series of strategies and recently I just wanted to thank the Department of Social Services and The Benevolent Society because they funded us to about 18 months' worth of implementation work with a range of partners and I know some of you are involved, right now, in this conversation.

So they've really been helping us implement some of the framing approaches at a very practical level. These resources are available freely for you to use. So we've got learning packages, we've got toolkits and we've also had some frame coaching opportunities for some of the organisations we've partnered with so they can directly learn how to do this in practice and take that back into their organisations and we have had really good take-up of this child development frame.

It's one of the easier framing strategies to adjust to. So communicating about children and what they need, if there's one thing you take out of it today, putting children first is something you can really do straight away in your communications but we've found it really infiltrating through quite diverse and penetrating use of this master narrative

So I know a number of you would have heard of the Every Child campaign. Every Child is deliberately framed that way because we know from the framing research that that is the way to get people involved in that campaign. NAPCAN have used the framing in last year's Child Protection Week campaign. They're doing the same this year. Children's Health Queensland have done some brilliant work looking at their communication directly with parents talking about children first and you'll hear from Victoria when she talks about Logan Together very shortly.

Some of our communications people have also been telling us that having access to the research has in many ways made their work of communicating easier, despite the fact it can take a little bit of practice to get your heads around the frames. So I know Helen Fogarty from NAPCAN talks about how exciting it is to now have an evidence base for communicating. So the sector itself has an evidence base around mental health or child and family work and our communicators have really had to run on instinct but I know a lot of communicators are now saying they've got much more confidence about the impact of their messages and using instinct can actually be a mistake in strategy.

The other kind of point I'd like to make briefly is that implementation of the strategies, that mobilisation doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen. We know that about implementation and some of our framing champions have really worked very hard on changing some of the common unproductive frames in their communications and organisations.

So one of the messages to avoid, Nat talked about avoid messages, is talking about parenting as a struggle, for example. We've learned that that really taps into some ways of thinking we want to avoid. It's a hard one to change because I recommend if you go to any website about children and families you will see people talking about how hard parenting is. So it's a deeply imbued one in our communications but that can be changed.

Resistance declines when people work out why it's important to change and that there is research behind it and I know the Raising Children Network, my colleague, Robyn Ball who's the editor, they've done lots of work to kind of reduce this parenting is a struggle frame on the Raising Children Network. We thought it was a great way to show empathy but now we know it's an avoid message because it risks making challenges seem inevitable and insurmountable and so why both with parenting support. We've switched the way we communicate about that. So we start with a child. We talk about the issue and we move to a focus on help-seeking rather than the problem because what we want people to do is reach out for help, not get stuck in a problem that's inevitable.

So they're just some examples from the work we've been doing. It's through partnerships that we're changing the conversation. This isn't just one of us, there's lots of us there's a body of us on this journey. So please do check out the resources, they're free or get in touch with us so your communication can become more effective too. Thank you and now I'm handing to Vikki, I think.

MS LEONE: Fantastic. Thanks, Annette and hello everyone. It's really great to join you today and I'm really pleased that so many people are interested in considering the role of framing and language in supporting children's mental health and wellbeing. So I hope this discussion, as Annette has said, will really fuel your thinking about how you might be able to apply it to advance understanding and some action around children's mental health.

So it probably won't come as any surprise to you that the Centre for Community Child Health, we're pretty big on evidence-informed decision making. So it's important for us to ensure that our communications are also informed by evidence so we're enabling our team to meet our goals of inspiring action on early childhood, uniting collaborators to make a difference for children and it's fabulous to see, as Annette pointed out, how many people are really taking this sort of work and trying to shape change so that our messages about what matters and why it matters and what people can do about it to make a difference are really getting out there.

The research from the FrameWorks Institute informs all of our communications and the work that we do in partnership with other people. As Nat explained and as Annette echoed, it helps us to choose what to advance and importantly what to avoid. What I'd like to briefly share with you today is one of our mobilisation strategies.

So in the first week of March this year, squeezed in just before lockdown in Melbourne, we hosted a series of half-day workshops on the language of child mental health with the support of the Creswick Foundation and the workshops were inspired by a lack of common terminology in children's mental health. As desired by Professor Oberklaid and his team we addressed how language can be a barrier to engagement and to taking a more integrated approach to prevention and early intervention.

Invitations were extended to diverse stakeholders, lots of people with an interest in considering the role of communications in advancing policy and practice change in this area. Workshops were hosted by Frank at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and included representatives from research, healthcare, the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Productivity Commission, schools and mental health, early childhood and education peak bodies.

The participants listened to presentations on parents' perceptions of Children's Mental Health by Anthea Rhodes from the Royal Children's Hospital Child Health Poll, Communicating Children's Mental Health by Nat Kendall‑Taylor from the FrameWorks Institute, Building Parents Understanding of Mental Health by Warren Cann from the Parenting Research Centre and Diagnosis in Children's Mental Health by Rhys Price-Robertson from Emerging Minds. All really lively group discussions as participants examined publicly available content on responding to the needs of children's mental health and considered the suitability and application of a mental health continuum to describe children's mental health. So if you participated in the first webinar in this series you'll be familiar with that continuum.

So it depicts mental health from healthy, the coping, the struggling and unwell. As Nat mentioned, establishing mental health as a continuum that children move along reinforces the dynamic nature of mental health and helps people to consider the environments and the relationships that shape it.

So I suppose the question is well how did the workshop participants find this application of the continuum of children's mental health? What did they think of it? Did they think it was effective? They also agreed that it did reinforce that sense of movement and reflected the dynamic nature of children's mental health and they also thought that it helped to normalise mental health transitions and make mental health discussions potentially more accessible to parents and could possibly provide an opportunity to talk about the factors that might influence how you could move along that continuum.

Some participants also thought that it had the potential to begin discussions about how children's mental health actually differs from adult mental health and that potentially it could be helpful for addressing the language that has its origins in adult mental health which is focused on the problem end of the spectrum and the need to promote help-seeking which, of course, is important for adults. So overall there was consensus the continuum could be really helpful for supporting constructive conversations about mental health and it did have the potential to help us advance a narrative – would help to progress our collective narratives.

The interest in this work is really the genesis of this Words Matter webinar series and the centre's research team continues to use the continuum in their work and we continue to try and sort of advance this discussion. So we know that the words that we choose are important for positioning mental health in a way that helps people see the relevance of mental health to children's development and helps to begin that conversation about how we can help them to thrive. So we hope that in bringing together maybe 70 or so participants from around Australia for those workshops that we've contributed to progressing this conversation and we hope we can continue to progress it a little bit further with everyone who's listening in today. So thanks and I will just pass you on to Victoria.

MS PARKER: Thank you so much. A big hello from Logan which is a Yuggera and Yugambeh speaking country. To give you a bit of background, Logan is a really geographically large diverse community. It's got more than 300,000 people. It's very passionate. It's got more cultures than New York City so there's a lot of incredible beauty and strength in this community. Also in Logan 70 per cent of children are doing really well but we want that number to be higher and it needs to be higher if we want it to be in line with the Queensland average or Australian averages.

So there's some work that we need to do at every age and stage to get children to where we want them to be because we know that if children turn up at age eight in good shape they're more likely to turn into teenagers that are happy and satisfied and then those teenagers turn into well-functioning adults and the community is prospering. So that's what we're doing.

So at Logan Together, we do whatever it takes to make sure that kids get the best start in life and we don't do it alone. There's a huge number of programs and services, organisations who are all on this mission and we all work together. It's a collective impact methodology so it's powered by the backbone team that I'm a part of and we work with all of our service operators and government partners to do what's needed including families and teachers and anyone that bumps into families they are all part of the Logan Together movement. We're a 10-year project and over the last five years we have focused on the ages and stages approach. So we ensure that more women get maternity services. We’ve worked on campaigns that have ensured more children go into kindy and are getting a better transition to prep.

Now this framework stuff is incredible. I'm from a communications background and this just lights me up. As Helen from NAPCAN says, it's adding that science and that confidence to what we intuitively know makes a difference and how we say things can just completely change the landscape. But really coming from Logan it's fair enough to know how to say things more powerfully but it makes no difference if there isn't a workforce that has the content knowledge from which to draw from and then how to say things or a workforce that actually engages with parents. If parents don't turn up, if parents aren't walking into these spaces where people are well trained in their framing and being able to speak with impact then it will make no difference.

So what do we do about that? In Logan Together, we're looking at what we're calling our Stronger Parenting campaign, and that entire approach is looking at new and creative ways to better support parents in their parenting journey, and that approach has three things, and in each of those phases this reframing methodology and intel is informing it. So firstly, we're looking to focus all of our efforts, we're wanting to get every single player in the space in the Logan community who bump into families to all commit to a key set of behaviours and principles that make the greatest difference to a child's life. Our families say that they are overwhelmed with the avalanche of information, and they just turn off. It's just overwhelming, it can be paralysing. So we need to focus all of that attention onto the very few key things that make the greatest difference. It just makes sense. And so we need to then train out workforce in what those key things are.

Unfortunately, you know, the science says there's a set of things make the greatest difference, but those things are reserved to parenting programs that only a small number of families attend, and they're also reserved to the brains and knowledge of parenting practitioners. And yet there are thousands more people that bump into families every day. So the trick is to pull that information out of those parenting programs, reframe it in ways that make the greatest impact to parents, arm out workforce with that information and knowledge so that when they do engage with parents, they're able to have the really powerful conversations that we're talking about. So focusing on the key things that make the greatest difference, and working out what those are, engaging in operationalising that within our workforce is the first step.

The second step that we're looking at is using behaviour change, and the theory of behaviour change as a way of mapping the way parenting programs are in the Logan universe. So we know for behaviour to change, you can't just talk about it. A parent can't just hear about it. They need to start practicing that behaviour, they need to engage with it, and they need to then start practicing, and then it will become embedded, and then hopefully those parents become influencers and promote it to other families around the community. So applying a behaviour change theory to our focus behaviours is very important.

And then the third thing is our killer thing that we're just so excited about, and that's looking at the fact that parenting programs, beautiful work exists, but there is no breakthrough because we're not - they're just not engaging with as many parents and families as we want to. And the reason we're not engaging with them is because we're just not shaped in a way that really motivates and inspires us. Yes, we want the best for our child, but there so many other things going on. And so here at Logan Together, we're looking to merge a couple of different disciplines in a new and innovative way. And to do that we're looking at what's human nature, what is popular in our lives, what do we get addicted to.

So we've referred to reality TV as a bit of a guide for that, and we've locked onto using singing. So I'm talking like think of Australia's Got Talent or The Voice as a way to bring people together and merging the arts discipline, and then embedding in this arts practice with as many parenting behaviours that make sense. And so we want to use this arts engagement activity to draw our families into community spaces, and we want to them to participate in this arts program, we're calling it Logan Sings, and by the act of participating with their child, they're then actually delivering some of the behaviours that make the greatest difference, and then they're surrounded - because they're in a community centre or a neighbourhood centre - they're surrounded by people who are then equipped with the knowledge of what makes the greatest difference, and they have the skills and how to engage with those families. So it's a three-pronged strategy that we're looking to deliver.

We're now working with the best in the business, because with these sort of disciplines you need to rely on experts. Our experts include Parenting Research Centre, we've got FrameWorks, who are both advising us on how to best engage with families and what those things are that change family behaviours. And we're using music experts, so we've got the creative director of the Choir of Hard Knocks, Jonathon Welch, who's working with us. Queensland Music Festival is helping facilitate the arts program. And the Conservatorium of Music helping with research around that. And of course our most important partners are out local community service operators and our local families who are helping co-design this project. So it's a watch this space thing, but the reframing stuff, the reframing intelligence and the way to engage with families has been a pivotal point in working out this whole mobilisation strategy. So I'll leave that there.

MR BOWDEN: Thanks, Victoria. Wow, thank you to all three of you, actually. And also, equally, to Nat for his recorded presentation. And I can see that it's really got our audience thinking because there's lots of really interesting questions coming through. I did just want to ask one really quick question, that I think I'd like to hear a response, I guess, from all three of you on, and that's really around just how do we counter the negative language that we might hear around children and behavioural challenges. So, you know, terms like oppositional or manipulative or attention-seeking, and I guess that probably applies in a range of different contexts, so just I guess a really quick answer from all three of you on what your top tip for countering that might be. That'd be great. Maybe Annette, do you want to go first?

MS MICHAUX: Yeah, just really quickly I think again kind of connecting it to the context of the reframing work, thinking about what it is that children need, what are they telling us through that behaviour, so what's the story behind the behaviour, and that's a really helpful place to then work with parents or teachers or whoever you're working with around, therefore, what can you do. So what does the behaviour mean, and then working with the parent or whatever to show them a way of responding to that behaviour. So I'd just say that's pretty key.

MR BOWDEN: Coming back to that functional approach rather than the labelling, yeah, that Nat talked about in his presentation. Yep. What about Vikki, what about you?

MS LEONE: Yeah, it's the context that matters. So as Annette said, what are the experiences and the environments that are at play, what's shaping that, and how might it be conceived in other ways.

MR BOWDEN: Yeah. Victoria?

MS PARKER: Yeah, I'd agree. I would turn to the concept of tuning into the child. So again, it's that context and understanding what's wrapped around it. And by tuning in I think you're - the words oppositional or - really bring up the idea of reacting to it, as like having an emotional reaction, rather than being that curious, tuning in or understanding what's happening for that child. I think that allows that ability to put the child first rather than having a parent response. Yeah.

MR BOWDEN: Yeah. Yep, that putting the child first really comes, I think, through in all three of your answers, which is fantastic. All right, so looking here through the audience questions that have come through, we've got one here around advocacy campaigns and some of our social marketing communications, and really I guess a need for those communications to be short and sharp. I guess in other contexts, equally, that principle would apply in policy briefs or summary reports of research and things like that. So I guess across the board when we are communicating in short-form communications. How do we make sure that we're applying framing insights in sort of a concise but high impact way to convey our message?

MS LEONE: Yeah, I think framing really lends itself to those sorts of things. So we do need to communicate via all those channels. And some of the things that you were suggesting there, Mitchel, reminded me of, you know, when we do our policy briefs, we always pull out those key messages, and every time we will check those messages with the framing principles that we know, and are we advancing the things we want to advance, are we minimising the things that we want to avoid, and are we getting people to think about how this prompts them to consider solutions or actions. So I think definitely lends itself to those short, sharp communications as well as the longer ones.

And the other thing that I'd flag, too, is that often in the campaigns, like the Every Child campaign that Annette mentioned, some of those sort of short, sharp messages can also be hashtags that people across the sector can use. So that helps you to collectively advance some of those reframed messages, or some of those key messages. So yeah, it's useful and effective.

MR BOWDEN: That's awesome.

MS PARKER: Yeah, no, and we have also applied that, so in - from an advocacy perspective, talking to government, we're talking - we are working with a number of other parties around universal early education. So we're looking to - we're engaging with government around asking for free kindy. In Queensland, it isn't free, and it's one of the major barriers in Logan, that financial barrier. So we are using - so FrameWorks actually provided a large number of resources, particularly during a COVID experience, to apply in advocacy work, and so we use - we've used that work as a way of making it human, bringing forward the outcome that we're looking for, and then building from that. Because people only have small attention spans, whether it's the channel, like Twitter, or whether it's the timeframe, and all the other things that are going on in someone's life, you've only got a short amount of time to create impact. So framing is like the - is almost like the magic recipe on how to get outcomes.

MR BOWDEN: Right, so that avoid, advance, focus kind of an approach really helps to I guess cut out some of the nice to know information and really focus in on the need to know kind of information and add those key points. Yeah, they're really good reflections. Thank you. And, Annette, I think this one we might ask you to reflect on first. I guess it's really around when a parent directly or indirectly talks, makes statements about - to practitioners that would be listening today, around parenting being difficult or being a struggle, and that sort of language that we heard you speak about earlier and Nat speak about earlier; do you have an example or some suggestions on how you might respond to that that doesn't reinforce that sort of avoiding message?

MS MICHAUX: Yeah, and look, I probably should start off by saying the avoiding talking about parenting as a struggle is for us to think about as professionals on our websites and in our communications to encourage parents to come forward to help. So normalising help seeking, rather than normalising the struggle. When we're with a parent one on one and a parent is telling us about their struggle, of course we will be listening to that, and you know, really trying to understand what their experience is. But we would never want to leave them with the struggle. Similarly, too, so what we'd be trying to do, is we'd be talking to the parent and finding out what strategies there are for them to use, for them to set goals around coming out of the struggle, or how we can refer them on, or work with them, depending on what our role is. So not leaving people deep in a struggle, when there are ways we can help them move on and have strategies to move forward. So I guess that's probably the key point there. We absolutely need to hear and listen to parents who are in their struggle, to help support them and help - - -

MR BOWDEN: So is there a bit of - is there - so are you saying that there's a time and a place, then, for validating and acknowledging the parents' struggle, so not kind of avoiding that altogether?

MS MICHAUX: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I mean an example is on the Raising Children Network I know one of the things we changed there was talking about sleep. Where we would've used to have talked about you know, one of the big struggles parents have is settling children et cetera, and we changed that to starting with children; children have all sorts of different patterns around sleep and in order to support children with their sleep there are these sorts of strategies. However, it can be really challenging. So instead of starting with a struggle we start with the child. Then we maybe talk about some strategies. And then we come back to how challenging it can be. So it's not like we completely ignore when it's a challenge, but we're just using strategies to encourage some strategies and some ways of dealing with it, rather than just kind of making the struggle inevitable, therefore there's nothing you can do.


MS PARKER: That's right Annette because the whole thing is with the reframing is to open up the conversation rather than closing it down. So if we validate it straight up going, yeah it's really hard. It's sort of like, there's a full-stop there, there's not much you can do. But if you start with the child it does – the motivation is there and the conversation continues to be open and available so.

MR BOWDEN: M'mm, that's a really good, it's a really good way of framing it Victoria.


MR BOWDEN: Vikki were you going to say something there?

MS LEONE: I think the interesting - yeah I was gonna say the interesting thing about framing is that we actually do it all the time. Every time, every time you're communicating, you're making choices about what you're going to advance or what you're going to avoid. And what we're talking about here is the difference is, we're using evidence to make those choices. And so, the likelihood of being able to make the progress we want is going to be greater than if we're just guesstimating what we think is going to resonate. And as we've found, some of the things that resonate with people are not things that are going to advance discussion in way that's productive for us or for children or parenting.

MR BOWDEN: M'hmm, yep, yeah great reflections, thank you. There's a few questions that have come through from the audience around particular cohorts. And how framing might apply or may be different or may need to be applied differently in different contexts. So the first one is around refugee and migrant and sort of people seeking asylum communities. And the second one is around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. And equally, whether there are particular sensitivities or - given that we're talking about language - and Nat talked quite extensively about culture - are there things we need to mindful of there?

MS MICHAUX: Well I guess it's important to emphasise that the research that's been done in Australia has been with a broad section of the Australian public. So the surveys around reframing parenting around the early years story et cetera have involved a representative sample (audio malfunction) for future ease, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people et cetera. And so the framing messages have absolutely general application and are very useful kind of across our communication strategies. That is probably quite a different thing from a particular intervention or way of working in a particular community, where particular metaphors or ways of thinking might be used, and it's not to say you necessarily apply all the framing strategies with a particular community. So I think absolutely you have to be sensitive to particular context. This is a general strategy that absolutely works across contexts in Australia. But for particular communities there may be other things or other needs. And I think that's something we need to bear in mind, the context of the research.


MS MICHAUX: I would say that the metaphors as well that we use to explain things like brain development, so using a kind of building metaphor around building foundations, the serve and return metaphor for parent/child interaction, and the navigating waters metaphor for helping people understand that we're shaped by what surrounds us in parenting context. Broadly they're very powerful metaphors that broadly work as do the other strategies (indistinct).

MS PARKER: I mean, so we're taking this research which is really new and we're looking to engage with our local communities, so those particular cohorts, and localise it. So localise it to the geographic region but also localise it to context and culture. So we imagine there would be nuances based on local insight and contexts or demographics, so we think - yeah, and culture. But for the main part, you know, we want to rely on the evidence that these metaphors and the reframing research shows, but recognising that it's a toolkit rather than a set in stone thing. So - - -

MR BOWDEN: A prescriptive - yeah.

MS PARKER: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I think there's also the aspect of by being localised there's more of an identification and an attachment to it. So our families can better respond and own it, yeah.


MS LEONE: I think that's great advice, it's a broadly relevant toolkit, but we know from our work, you know, in implementation, that context is critical. So you certainly wouldn't want to disregard that. And I think it would be sensational if we did some specific communications research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, or, for example, refugee/migrant families. I think that would be really rich. And if anyone out there is listening and has some budget, you know, come talk to us, we would love to do that.

MR BOWDEN: What's next for our professionals on the line? Where can they go? Where can we point them to, to learn more about this? And I know Parenting Research Centre has some e-Learning modules and things like that available. Are there other particular resources that we know of that are out there that are freely, openly accessible to people? Or particular publications that we know that are freely and openly available?

MS MICHAUX: Yes well the FrameWorks Institute website has lots of things as well there's a toolkit with all the seven strategies for reframing parenting. I think CoLab in Western Australia has some – is going to very soon have some great resources on there. A lot of the message on the Raising Children website have reframed messages.


MS MICHAUX: And I know CoLab have developed an app which is the reframed messages going directly to parents, have all been very carefully crafted using the work that has come out of CoLab around how to frame the early years, of course, properly so - I think it's called Bright – I'm just trying to remember the name of the app.

MS LEONE: Bright - Bright Futures?

MS MICHAUX: It's - - -

MS LEONE: Bright Futures?

MS MICHAUX: - - - not Bright Futures, but maybe we can follow that up, Mitchell, to make sure the people who are engaging with this get the link. Because - - -


MS MICHAUX: - - - that's again a really beautifully framed, evidence-based resource, can be used directly with the parent. Yep.

MR BOWDEN: So just in terms of the Parenting Research Centre resources as well as the FrameWorks Institute resources and the Centre for Community Child Health resources, those are all now available on the CFCA website, on the page for this webinar. So people can certainly access those there as well as a number of other resources around reframing, and particularly in the context of child wellbeing and child development. So I think that's actually it for today. We're probably wrap up there. And I just, I guess in doing so, I would just like to hear from you all just one key message, key take home message or call to arms for the professionals on the line who will go forth and communicate about children's mental health.

MS MICHAUX: I just finish with if you're deeply passionate about children's mental health as we all are, start by talking about children. It makes a massive difference in your communication and is actually quite an easy step to take.

MS PARKER: I would say that it's really, really important to know how to best engage with families. But it makes no difference if there isn't the content knowledge to draw from or if families aren't turning up. So I think the mobilisation strategy is more than just knowing how to speak it. You need to know what to say and you need to be actually bumping into families. So it's a bigger picture.

MR BOWDEN: I like the 'Bumping' into - - -

MS LEONE: Yeah, I'd say - I'd say that there is a stack of resources about, so don't reinvent the wheel. You know, there's lots of people doing this work. We're very supportive, we like to share our success, and our lack of, sometimes. So there's a lot of material there to start with to support you. And good on you for trying to make a difference for children and families, keep going.

MR BOWDEN: Thumbs up from me too. All right well that's it for today. Thank you, everyone, for your time, and we'll leave it there.



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Slide outline

1. Finding a frame: using communications to unlock change on children’s mental health

August 2020 
Nat Kendall-Taylor, PhD 
Chief Executive Officer

2. What is framing and why does it matter?

What have we learned about framing child mental health?

3. framing =

4. choices in how we present information 

→ how people think/feel/act

5. Healthier food choices

Measure food choices in unrelated context

Better choices

No message

Bryan et al. 2016

6. Framing child mental health

7. Alt text: Upclose photo of a key in a door

8. Where it all begins…

9. You Say...They Think

10. You Say...They Think part 2

Parenting is a skill. Like any other skill, it needs to be practiced and supported. With the right supports and resources we can enable all parents to be effective. - Expert/Advocate/Practitioner

11. A peek into culture on child mental health

12. Cultural Models of...
Child Mental Health 

MentalHealth=MentalHealth Problems

Parental responsibility 
Information deficit

What surrounds us shapes us

Effective Parenting=Love


Simplified worlds 
Natural process 
Infants as ‘liminal’

Threat of Modernity
MH as ‘new issue’ Medicalisation of childhood Social media as threat

Australian exceptionalism (already doing a lot…) 
Emergency inflation 
Genetic determinism

More love 
Education for parents 
Basic Support from Govt 
What More Can We Do?

13. Seeing culture allows you to do 3 things

14. Seeing culture allows you to do 3 things part 2


15. Avoid

Problems - Don’t activate assumption that mental health=mental health problems

Control - Be careful not to cue control and individual responsibility

Woo woo positivism - Watch out for the ‘we’re already doing enough’ line of thinking

Simplified worlds - Don’t portray children’s worlds as simple

Tech and modernity as bad guy - Don’t activate threat of modernity because it leads to fatalism

16. Advance

Balanced positivism - Provide examples of positive mental health and what it does

Functioning - Mental health as a means to an end—what it does rather than what it is

What surrounds us shapes us - Show how environments shape development and mental health

Public responsibility - Reinforce understanding that govt. services are appropriate + important

17. Focus

your frame

18. Focus your frame part 2

#1 Make it a means: frame CMH as means to healthy development + wellbeing (not end in itself) 
#2 Make it functional: talk about what it does rather than what it is 
#3 Make it dynamic: establish idea of continuum that people move around along 
#4 Make it balanced: get positive effects of mental health on the table 
#5 Make it personal: help people see their own mental health and what it allows them to do 
#6 Make it about people and places: show how environment and relationships shape it 
#7 Make it about now and later: connect actions now with outcomes now and later 
#8 Make it efficacious: show range of solutions and explain what they do/how they work

19. to change this…

Culture, you need to answer these...


Says what???


To whom???


20. 2 key ingredients in the formula

Key ingredient #1: Framing strategy

21. 2 key ingredients in the formula part 2

Key ingredient #2: Mobilization strategy

22. Quote 

The world as we know it is built on a story. To be a change agent is, first, to disrupt the existing story of the world, and second, to tell a new story of the world so that people have a place to go.

Charles Eisenstein

Related resources

Related resources

  • Adding child mental health to the core story 
    This resource, commissioned by Colab, provides recommendations for re-framing child mental health, including where to focus and what to avoid
  • Bright tomorrow’s app 
    This app, produced by Colab, has over 1000 tips to help build young brains and information about how children think, feel and respond to meaningful moments.
  • Child mental health: A time for innovation 
    This Centre for Community Child Health Policy Brief identifies an urgent need to formulate a comprehensive, sustainable and evidence-informed plan to effectively promote and improve the mental health of children and the adults they become.
  • Child mental health: Building a shared language 
    This issue of InSight highlights the impacts of the language used to talk about child mental health in practice, policy and community contexts on the wellbeing of children; and calls for a shared language that is accessible to the key players in a child’s life, and communicated easily to children themselves.
  • Child mental health problems: Can parents spot the signs? 
    The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll is a quarterly, national survey of Australian households shedding new light on the big issues in contemporary child and adolescent health – as told by the Australian public. This resource shares the most recent findings.
  • Diagnosis in child mental health: Exploring the benefits, risks and alternatives 
    This CFCA paper is designed to encourage practitioners to critically reflect on the role diagnostic systems play in their work with children and families.
  • FrameWorks Institute 
    Working internationally and in Australia, the FrameWorks institute apply social science research to uncover the most effective ways of talking about social issues. This website includes toolkits and resources to inform the better use or frames.
  • Moving early childhood up the agenda: A Core Story of early childhood development in Australia 
    This resource, commissioned by Colab, provides recommendations for re-framing childhood wellbeing and development, including where to focus and what to avoid.
  • Parenting Research Centre - Reframing parenting 
    This Parenting Research Centre website, Reframing parenting, hosts a collection of resources and information on reframing parenting.
  • Reframing parenting eLearning course 
    This Parenting Research Centre course explores how to communicate about parenting in ways that have a positive impact on thinking and behaviour.
  • Reframing parenting in the context of COVID-19 
    This webinar, hosted by Parenting Research Centre with FrameWorks Institute, discussed the challenges and opportunities for supporting children’s wellbeing through effective framing in the context of COVID-19.
  • Strategic framing in early childhood development 
    This resource, produced by the Centre for Community Child Health provides a range of tips and strategies for using frames effectively to support child health and wellbeing.

Webinar questions and answers

Questions answered during presenter Q&A

To view the presenter Q&A, go to 56:00 in the recording

  1. How do we counter the negative language we may hear around children and behavioural challenges – terms like “oppositional” or “manipulative” or “attention-seeking”?
  2. When developing advocacy campaigns that typically require short-and-sharp messaging, how do we apply framing in both a concise and high-impact way?
  3. When parents express the difficulties and struggles of parenting, what are some ways a practitioner can respond without reinforcing the avoiding message?
  4. What do we need to mindful of when applying framing strategies with people from different contexts, such as those from migrant and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds?
  5. What resources are available to help professionals learn more about framing?


Nat Kendall-Taylor, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer at the FrameWorks Institute, a research think tank in Washington, D.C. He leads a multi-disciplinary team in conducting research on public understanding and framing of social issues and supporting non-profit organisations to implement findings. A psychological anthropologist, Nat publishes widely on communications research in the popular and professional press and lectures frequently in the United States and abroad. He is a senior fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, a visiting professor at the Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine, and a fellow at the British-American Project.

Annette is a Director at the Parenting Research Centre, an organisation dedicated to finding evidence-based solutions to support families in their parenting. Annette has played a sector-wide role, collaborating with the FrameWorks Institute and community and government organisations to implement the findings of the Reframing Parenting project. She is passionate about using evidence to communicate effective public policy messages that contribute to a society where children and their families can thrive.

Annette has held senior positions in government and non-government organisations for over 20 years and is a Board Member of Families Australia, the peak body for Australia’s child and family services.

Vikki is the Knowledge Translation Manager at the Centre for Community Child Health (The Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Children’s Research Institute). The focus of her work is facilitating strategic communication and the application of the best available research and knowledge to programs, policy and practice. With a focus on effective knowledge translation in early childhood, she partners with research, clinical and education initiatives to support planning, evaluation, implementation and professional development. Vikki is particularly interested in collaboration to advance the awareness, accessibility and application of evidence, and strategies for increasing engagement with research. She is a member of the Implementation Science Communication editorial board.

Victoria has been a key part of the Logan Together Backbone Team for the last three years and during that time has fallen in love with the Logan community. Victoria is a nationally awarded marketing communication professional with over 18 years’ experience working in the private and public sectors, with a passion for community, family and housing related work. Victoria has worked in a variety of roles and for a variety of organisations … from international mining giants (BHP) to founding her own online bikini business (selling into 35 countries), and now has corrected her course to exclusively work on social change initiatives for large-scale good.

Victoria is the Deputy-Chair of the Lady Bowen Trust Board of Advisors — a Queensland Government established charitable entity that provides practical help to Queenslanders who are experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness to stabilise their lives and build a better future.

Victoria has a 13-year-old son.

What did Victoria want for her future when she was a child? ‘I had to confirm this with my mum, because I was sure I had higher aspirations at 5 years, but apparently my overriding desire was to be able to read (and it didn’t come easily or fast) and to get roller skates for my next birthday.’