The Sun Newspaper has published a headline linking mental illness with killing. Regardless of the facts stated, it is the context in which they are placed. The headline on the front page refers to ‘mental patients’ (The title of this post is an alternative headline for the original piece). According to this Wikipedia article, the newspaper has the 9th largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and it is clear that the newspaper has significant influence. The question is why do they want people to make this link?
Fortunately this doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Social media is changing the dynamics of communication and stigmatisation. The most unwell people in society can often be the most vulnerable. Historically people with mental illness have been at the whim of the more powerful in society. Things are changing and changing fast. Social media has enabled people who are passionate about mental health to connect with others. The social media personalities are health professionals, advocates and people with mental illnesses.
When enough people with a passion for promoting mental health connect with others they are able to get a powerful message out. This message is increasingly challenging stigma and is beginning to take on the form of a movement which is fast and effective and works to the benefit of the most vulnerable in society and ultimately for all of us.
I was heartened to see this response from the mainstream media – ‘The Independent’ which according to this Wikipedia article is one of the youngest newspapers in the UK and has a very respectable circulation. Leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink have voiced their disappointment with the headline in the response above. The Guardian has also produced this response looking at the data in more detail and challenging the assertions in the Sun article. The Huffington Post also responded.
Rethink and Mind have launched their Time to Change campaign which also has an established following on Twitter and again the message is about challenging stigma. At the time of writing, the Twitter account for Time to Change has responded to the Sun headline and there is a detailed response by Mind and Rethink on the website (as quoted in the Independent article).
When it comes to Twitter however, there is too much going on to easily summarise. Searching with the hashtags #endstigma and #stigma retrieved
@Mental Health Federation – a condemnation of the headline retweeted 49 times and responses themselves have been retweeted.
@GeorgiaBelum – retweeted 20 times
There are numerous other tweets included in the Huffington Post article above and extensive tweets using the above hashtags. The tweets even start mini-initiatives under the umbrella of challenging the stigma of the original article. It’s incredible to think that this has all taken place within 24 hours.
The publication comes at the same time as Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW13) which is a Canadian awareness campaign challenging stigma. I thought it was fitting to show the video below.
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