A panel of journalists and professionals reveal that the media’s representation of mental health could be contributing to a ‘mental health crisis’.
The drive for discussion comes at a time where mental health issues are at an all-time high, with seven students in Bristol having committed suicide this year.
Dr Schroeder, a Bristol GP who runs sessions around student health at the University of Bristol agrees that there is a problem and said ‘’mental health problems have become more common, and there is a need to provide a different support.’’
Mental health charity Mind have revealed that although the overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, it appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.
Representation of mental health in the media
‘Mental health in the Media’, a panel discussion chaired by Abigail Buchanan, co-president of the UOB Journalism society, saw four panellists discuss the discussion of and representation of mental health in the media.
The panel consisted of journalists Daisy Buchanan and Eleanor Morgan, founder of Black Ballad and freelance writer Tobi Oreden and qualified psychiatrist and senior lecturer in Culture and Media Studies at UWE, Dr Sherryl Wilson.
When explaining why the event was so important, Abigail said ‘’ I don’t think there’s a single more powerful force in influencing us and educating the public [than the media].
So many of our perceptions, opinions, understandings of things that have happened and things that we know come from the media.’’
Daisy Buchanan agreed. ‘’Something that is really important is that we acknowledge that mental health is something that we have and it requires as much support and maintenance as our physical health does and I think the media has a huge part to play in helping us to acknowledge that and address that.’’
Dr Sheryll Wilson argued that because the media is of such importance to what we see and hear, much more needs to be done to improve the portrayal of mental health. ‘’If we don’t have mental illness or know anybody who has, the information we have about anything we don’t know is through the media.
Media can help shape our opinions but they also reflect our opinions back to us to reinforce how we think about things.’’
Driving the discussion of mental health
When discussing the solution to tackle this ‘mental health crisis’, the panellists differed in their views. The majority of the panel felt the discussion of mental health alone will remove the stigma and help more people come forward when they are struggling.
Dr Sherryl Wilson argued that the notion of speaking out about suffering from mental ill health should not be considered brave. ‘’There’s an assumption still about someone who’s going to disclose a mental health illness that positions them as brave. That notion of being noble, it’s sort of a bit patronising”.
This discussion comes at a poignant time with Vice-Chancellor of UWE Steve West having announced to education experts in Westminster that universities are heading towards a mental health crisis, this week.
UWE Bristol is putting #MentalWealthFirst @VCUWE announcing #UWE commitment to put mental health first for students and staff at Westminster Forum Conference today https://t.co/msDGfPrFJo pic.twitter.com/lLdX27ayI3
— UWE Bristol News (@uwebristolnews) 7 December 2017
On moving forward, the panel agreed that more needs to be done. Abigail explains ‘I think years of stigma is hard to undo, and I think we are moving in the right direction.
The less we talk about it, the less people will understand. So I think that’s why those initial conversations are so important because I think if you can relate to people then that initial stigma is dismantled.’’
Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have shown warning signs beforehand.
These can include becoming depressed, showing sudden changes in behaviour, talking about wanting to die and feelings of hopelessness.
These feelings do improve and can be treated.
If you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123.