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Can Frames Make Change? Using Communications Science to Translate the Science of Child Mental Health

Nat Kendall-Taylor , Allison Stevens
May 24, 2017
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Mental illness in children is on the rise in the United States, but research shows that the American public does not understand the science of child mental health—what it is and what supports and disrupts it. To build public understanding of child mental health and support for the systemic solutions needed to promote it, the FrameWorks Institute developed a “core story”—a master narrative—that advocates and experts in the field can use to communicate about the issue more effectively. This research is built on interviews with experts and members of the public, cognitive analyses of frames commonly used in media stories about the issue, and surveys of frame elements such as values and metaphors. Findings show that two values—Prosperity and Ingenuity—lifted support for policies related to child mental health. The Levelness Explanatory Metaphor, which compares child mental health to the levelness of a table, is also effective.