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mental health minds


mental health condition, rather than the other way around.” Given that many people learn about mental health issues from the media, it has a responsibility to be accurate and sensitive, Baker notes. “I remember someone introducing me as ‘Sue Baker, the depressive’ when it’s just a tiny part of who I am. Journalists need to be reminded someone is a person first. They may be a footballer who also happens to have schizophrenia.” Educating the media is something to which Time to


Change is committed. Its guidance includes not calling a person a ‘schizophrenic’, not using the term ‘committed’ suicide or describing in detail how someone ended his life. “With suicide, the issue is around the term ‘committed’ suicide which is associated with committing a crime and adds


“ ”


Given that many people learn about mental health issues from the media, it has a responsibility to be accurate


to the stigma. We work closely with the Samaritans.” Another concern is that atrocities are blamed on mental illness. An example is the Germanwings crash, deliberately caused by pilot Andreas Lubitz, which killed 149 people in 2015. Headlines included ‘madman in cockpit’ and ‘suicide pilot had a long history of depression’. The reason he flew the plane into the French Alps is not known. The same applies to terrorist incidents, according to Baker. “They are often reported as linked to mental illness when actually we don’t know why someone committed a terrorist act.” Danny Buckland, who worked on nationals for more than two decades and was shortlisted for a Mind award for his reporting, believes certain factors have helped to change attitudes. Celebrities and young royals detailing their experiences as


well as editors such as Martin Townsend on the Sunday Express, whose father’s struggle with manic depression was the trigger for the paper’s mental health campaign, have played a part, he says. “It used to be about celebs in rehab but then you had public figures admitting they were stressed, depressed or anxious. This encouraged readers to come forward with their experiences. Time has been a factor – it has taken nearly 20 years.” During the phone hacking trial, Rebekah Brooks said the


‘Bonkers Bruno’ headline was a career mistake. However, in a way, the outrage it caused has helped to ‘change the narrative’, Baker says. “There’s still room for improvement but we’re definitely seeing progress,” she says. “Papers used to say to me: ‘We’re not interested in a story on depression. We did that six months ago.’ Now, we see stories on the issue every other day – and many are positive.”


Mainstream move


The Time To Change survey has been examining the reporting of mental illness in the UK print media since 2008. It is part of Mind Over


Matter, a collaboration with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. Its latest findings were


based on an analysis of articles on mental illness in 27 local and national newspapers on two randomly selected days of each month during 2016. They reveal just how


mainstream the topic of mental health has now become. A total of 1,738 articles


covered the issue compared with just 941 in 2014, the highest


previous number. The most common


sources for newspapers covering mental health were people with mental health problems, both high-profile figures and the general public. The researchers say this


shows that more people feel able to speak out about the issues they are dealing with. Half of the articles were


anti-stigmatising. They offered a sympathetic portrayal, focused on issues such as recovery


and treatment, or promoted mental health. This compares with just


over a third (35 per cent) that portrayed people as a danger to others, as victims, behaving strangely or being a problem for others. The rest of the coverage


was mixed (six per cent) or neutral (nine per cent). The most frequent


stigmatising elements were ‘danger to others’ and ‘hopeless victim’, which Time To Change says shows that more work is needed to challenge stereotypes.


theJournalist | 15


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