Skip Content

Getting the facts right about mental health reporting

A pile of folded broadsheet newspapers

Publication date: February 16, 2018

Portrait photo of Sarah NiblockI was disturbed to see President Trump’s swift deflection of the mass school killings in Florida from guns to mental health.

There is no doubt that people with mental health issues often get a bad press. Yet, with 1 in 4 of us experiencing mental health issues at any given time, reporting on dangerous criminal behaviour and mental illness must be done carefully and in an informed way or it can be hugely damaging and stigmatizing.

As a journalism educator and ethics researcher of 30 years’ standing, it’s clear to me how powerful and productive good reporting can be.

Done well, journalism and social media can transform lives.  It’s inarguable that UK journalism is the best in the world – provocative, challenging and determined. The hundreds of students I’ve trained and educated over the years are testament to the fact that young journalists enter the professional wanting to do good.

That’s why it’s vital that we get the facts straight – it’s good business sense after all because more than a quarter of our audiences will be suffering at any given moment.

We can help.

The stark truth is that people experiencing mental health issues are far less likely to commit violent crimes than people without mental illness.

People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be a danger to themselves than to others.

People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be victims to violent crime than those without mental health issues.

People across all walks of life make invaluable contributions to society and business while experiencing mental health issues.

Consider this: if you’re a journalist working on a story involving mental health, it’s highly likely a quarter of your newsroom colleagues are experiencing mental health issues right now.

Is it actually true that the person you’re reporting on has a mental health issue? Or is it just local speculation?

If true, is it relevant to the story and in the public interest?

Who are your ‘experts’ – are they the highest trained experts such as accredited, regulated United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy members?

We’re here to help. Call us.

 

 

Comments

  • He’s in the pocket of BigPharma who will jump at the opportunity to medicate the remaining 40% of American kids who are not yet on SSRIs or Ritalin.

  • Colin says:

    You lost me with this segment
    Done well, journalism and social media can transform lives. It’s inarguable that UK journalism is the best in the world – provocative, challenging and determined. The hundreds of students I’ve trained and educated over the years are testament to the fact that young journalists enter the professional wanting to do good.
    If I go to the USA they will tell me the same thing. The fact you have taught journalists and that they may leave your teaching and go into the business with that initial intention. However the papers owners will direct their comments and channel their opinions.
    Trump thinks of the UK press as fake news or alternative facts. This will be dismissed if he ever reads it. ( if he can read it)
    Please publish a blog about the possible work or support etc that our profession can offer. Explore the range of mental health problems and the challenges of our government and councils not providing enough informed resources in this country . I worked in the field of education with very hard to engage students while training as a therapist and I’m waiting for the ADHD label to be tagged onto this challenged young man. It’s often used as a catchall description.

  • Susan Hauser says:

    I would say that ‘experiencing ‘ a mental health issue is different from having one. I would also say that someone shooting people at random is most definitely afflicted by a mental health issue but may very likely not actually experience it, that is to say he/she may think of themselves as perfectly stable and sane.
    Whether it is helpful to facilitate buying guns freely is a separate issue. But surely we are not advocating that it is healthy and integrated behaviour to go on a rampage with a gun, machete, car or whatever else?

  • Cassie Rowland says:

    Could you provide references for the following please….

    People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be a danger to themselves than to others.
    People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be victims to violent crime than those without mental health issues.
    People across all walks of life make invaluable contributions to society and business while experiencing mental health issues.

  • Debbie says:

    I would be very interested to hear what your thoughts are about this young man if they are not of the mental health type?

  • Camilla Oelman says:

    Hi, absolutely.

    ‘People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be a danger to themselves than to others’ – this is referred to by Mental Health Foundation here https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination as well as by Time To Talk on the second fact down here: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/responsible-reporting/violence-mental-health-problems

    ‘People experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be victims to violent crime than those without mental health issues’ – this can be found on https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/victims-of-crime/

    The final point you highlight is the voice of UKCP.

  • Andrew Greenfield Walker says:

    What about some respectable support or reference for the assertion ‘The stark truth is that people experiencing mental health issues are far less likely to commit violent crimes than people without mental illness’ ? It is this assertion, rather than the 3 mentioned above, which will most undermine Trump’s attempt to re-stigmatise an already stigmatised group. He does this, as usual, by playing to existing fears and prejudices that ‘anyone with a mental health issue is dangerous and should be shunned’. I suspect he is as much in the pocket of the National Rifle Association as BigPharma, but that is fairly well known.

  • Sandra Scott says:

    Hi Andrew
    I don’t know whether you had a chance to read the comment above, but for more about people experiencing mental health issues are far more likely to be victims to violent crime than those without mental health issues, see https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/victims-of-crime/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *