Media `stigmatising mental illness'

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The Independent Online
National newspapers are "feeding [the] mental health stigma" said health experts yesterday as they launched a initiative to promote respect for those with mental health problems.

A survey of more than 1,000 articles carried out by the Health Education Authority in association with Mind found that almost half press coverage is about crime, harm to others and self-harm with both broadsheets and tabloids making a link between mental ill health and violence. More than 40 per cent of tabloid articles about mental health carried pejorative words such as "nutter" or "loony" and reports containing advice and guidance accounted for less than 8 per cent of all the coverage.

The HEA and Mind, backed by the National Union of Journalists and the Press Complaints Commission, are calling for more balanced coverage. The survey was published the day the two organisations started targeting 16 to 24-year-olds, who together with the over-75s are the most prejudiced about mental illness in a new nationwide scheme. Dr Lynne Friedli, manager of the HEA's mental health project, said: "Greater understanding is crucial to increase respect for people experiencing mental health problems - which could be any one of us at some time in our lives." Glenda Cooper