Media Can Help Break Mental Health Taboos

Health Minister Edwin Poots says the media has an important role to play in breaking the stigmas which surround mental health.

Reports show that people with mental illness complain society’s stigmas create major barriers to their health and quality of life.

Negative attitudes within communities often deter sufferers from seeking help in the early stages and engaging in everyday social activities.

It can also cause problems for people when trying to gain employment.

The Minister was addressing a conference in Belfast marking World Mental Health Day.

He said: "Balanced, positive reporting about mental illness helps the public to better understand the experience of mental ill-health. It helps get across the messages that most people with mental illness do get better and that those people with enduring mental ill-health can enjoy a good quality of life."

But he added: "Conversely, unbalanced and sensationalised reporting fuels fear about mental illness. This has a hugely negative effect on the mental well-being of people experiencing mental illness. And it would be true to say that, in the past, mental illness has not received the sensitive media coverage that other illnesses have been given."

Mr Poots called for mental health professionals to work with the media in order to highlight good practice and encourage responsible reporting.

"Mental health professionals and advocates need to understand that journalists have a difficult job. There needs to be open debate on the reporting of mental health issues.

"We need to be pro-active in terms of working with the media to highlight the wealth of guidance and good practice that exists. This guidance indicates that responsible reporting humanises mental illness, offers hope, is accurate, provides signposting, and avoids stereotyping."


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