This month I would like to draw your attention to how mental health is portrayed in the media. I think we all know how easily mental ill-health can equate to ‘mad, bad and dangerous’, certainly in less esteemed publications. But even in more respectable outlets, there is often an inherent bias towards the biomedical model. Recently, the BBC, a UK-based news service with an international reach, ran a series called ‘In the Mind’. There were many inspiring first-person stories, and a laudable attempt to demystify mental ill-health. However, at the heart of it was a belief that mental ill-heath is predominantly caused by bio-medical factors. In response to this, Richard Bentall wrote a deeply personal and academic rigorous open letter to Stephen Fry. Peter Kinderman, the President of the British Psychological Society, and other clinicians, practitioners and people with lived experience, wrote a broader open letter to the BBC asking them to review their coverage of mental health, and urging people to sign it. Why is this important? Many of us may know to question certain media stories. However, the perceived respectability of a media platform can anchor the biomedical model as an irrefutable scientific truth.
We at MHE believe in the possibility of recovery and the power of hope for everyone. Through our work on the Bucharest Manifesto, the consultation on DSM-V and the revisions on ICD 10, we are fighting for alternative voices to be heard, and mental health to be understood in a wider, more human context. One of the ways in which we can achieve this is by influencing media coverage in individual members states. We will be working on a MHE template letter, which you will be able to send to your national news organisations, to press for change in how mental health is portrayed in your country. Please email me to share your thoughts on this.
Thank you for all who have been in touch already, and for your warm welcome. Please do sign up for our General Assembly and Capacity Building Event- the details are below. I look forward to meeting you soon!
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.