importance of responsible reporting of mental health issues.
Mary O'Hara wrote:
Ask people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness – especially a serious one like Schizophrenia – what they think about media coverage of the issue and certain words come up time and again. Words like: 'offensive', 'stigmatising', 'sensationalist', 'inaccurate' and 'distorted'...
The natural next question to ask is: why? Why is it that this overwhelming sense of negativity is what people are left with when they read newspapers or watch television programmes where mental illness is featured?
To find an eloquent summing up of why what is written and reported by the media matters we need look no further than the seminal book by Otto Wahl, "Media Madness."
In it Wahl writes: "Media depictions, in their persistent and pervasive inaccurate stereotypes perpetuate the negative attitudes of the public toward people who experience mental disorders and thus help to maintain the stigma, rejection and discrimination that has added to their burden.
"For people with mental illness the images of mental illness that the media currently present have very important, very personal, and very painful consequences."
Last year, Mail columnist Janet Street-Porter was rightly criticised for her article dismissing depression as just a 'trendy new illness'. Such was the backlash that several readers' letters were added to the online version to counter her views.
But it seems the Mail hasn't learnt its lesson and last week ran an article by Angela Patmore, which was little more than an extended plug for her book and which told people with depression that the solution was to 'just get a grip'. The Mail decided to present the article like this:
Will the PCC be reminding the Mail about the 'importance of responsible reporting of mental health issues'?
(Thanks to Angry Mob, who initially tweeted a photo of the above article, and to Kat Arney)