Dr Andrew Mayers

Mental health and the media

If we are to change negative public perceptions of mental health, one of our priority targets must be the media. All too often, the images portrayed by newspapers and television are stereotypical and inaccurate. We need to educate people in the media - editors, journalists, reporters, academics, and students - about the best way to accurately portray mental health. Even the images that are used to portray people with mental illness need careful attention, as was highlighted by the insightful campaign by Time to Change. The Mental Health Media Charter was launched in October 2017, by Natasha Devon. I very much see this as the blueprint for media to follow when reporting mental health stories.

Examples of mental health in the media

Newspapers are often inconsistent in the way in which they report mental health. However, I am frequently impressed by the frequent reports in The Guardian's excellent mental health section.

The Sun has not had the best history of reporting mental health, but they have raised their game recently - most notably with the excellent feature on the Time to Talk Day campaign. Indeed, that campaign raised some very encouraging positive messages from many newspapers (such as Metro).

That last example also illustrates the power of social media. Much was tweeted on Twitter and posted on Facebook about #TimeToTalk Day from Time to Change (February, 6th 2014). But, perhaps the most uplifting example came from the astonishing #FindMike campaign. Supported by Rethink Mental Illness, this story described Jonny Benjamin's mission to find the good Samaritan who intervened in Jonny's suicide attempt six years previously (following a diagnosis of a psychotic disorder). The journey to find 'Mike' was covered in countless newspaper articles and featured on ITV Daybreak. However, it was the incredible power of networking through social media that provided the greatest support. Above all else, the #FindMike campaign raised excellent awareness for mental health and suicide. Here are some examples from the media:

ITV Daybreak - Looking for 'Mike'

ITV Daybreak - 'Mike' (Neil) is found

The Independent

The Guardian

Daily Mirror


Did you notice how the Independent and Guardian articles included telephone number support details - to the likes of Samaritans and Rethink? That's good reporting of mental health and suicide.

And the message reached across the world...



Current media reports

I frequently 'tweet' examples of media reporting of mental health. Please follow me on Twitter to keep up to date with that - @DrAndyMayers