I 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?