Why we expect more from the media when it comes to mental health

Jen Glyn is Press Officer at Centre for Mental Health

The stars (and the paps) were out last night for the 6th annual Mind Media Awards, celebrating the broadcasters, journalists, and programme makers changing the way mental health is portrayed in print and on screen.

There was an impressive list of nominees,  judged by a  prestigious panel of journalists  and programme makers (including, hearteningly, one from the ‘new world of digital media.’)

What struck me about the list was its variation.

One in four of us is will experience an episode of mental ill health and, as the Mind shortlist shows, mental ill health can affect anyone. In This is England ‘88, Lol copes with a mental illness and motherhood. Waterloo Road depicts a teenager struggling with school work and schizophrenia.  Claire Balding presents a radio documentary about depression and walking, and a pioneering campaign by Sky Sports sets out to raise awareness of common mental health problems in the lead up to the live Super League games. Mental Health Cop reports from the front line of mental health and policing and the Sunday Express cover everything from mental health in UK workplaces to mental health in prisons, as part of their  Campaign for Better Mental Health.

Last night Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive, said “discrimination still frames attitudes towards mental health.” And it’s clear that the media can do much more to accurately reflect the lives of people living with mental ill health and to challenge damaging public attitudes towards mental illness.

But it’s getting better. Ten years ago you’d read headlines about ‘nutters’ and ‘schizo’s.’ The reason you don’t now is, in part,  because of the people who ‘inform, educate and engage audiences about the real issues at the heart of mental health.’

A lot has changed. Now, as the scope of subjects covered by this year’s awards shows, we are used to seeing  (and have come to expect) nuanced, balanced and complex coverage of the issues around mental  illness.
Read more  about the event here.