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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Charity praises media on mental health

New research from the charity Mind shows that media coverage of mental health problems improves understanding and promotes help seeking.

News reports, documentaries, celebrity interviews, soap and drama storylines about mental health have a huge impact on encouraging people to talk, show new findings released by Mind. More than a third (35%) of people who have seen a storyline involving a character with mental health problems say it inspired them to start a conversation about mental health, and half (50%) of all respondents say that it changed their opinion about the kind of people that can develop a mental health problem.

Mind’s poll reveals that sensitive reporting of mental health stories in the news can also play an important role in supporting people with mental health problems. One in four (24%) people say that seeing or reading news reports about mental health help them feel less alone, and one in five (20%) say that it has actually prompted them to contact a friend or colleague with a mental health problem.
Celebrities speaking out about their mental health experiences was also shown to be impactful with a quarter of respondents (24%) saying that hearing accounts from people in the public eye helped them to feel less alone and one in five (21%) had started a conversation about mental health inspired by celebrity stories in the news.

Interestingly, younger people were much more likely to say they felt encouraged to seek help or support for their mental health as a result of reading about mental health stories in the news. A quarter (24%) of 18-24 year olds say they had felt encouraged to seek help after having read a story similar to theirs in the media, compared to just 7% of those aged 65 and over.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “These statistics show just how powerful all forms of media can be in inspiring people to start a conversation about mental health and encouraging them to seek help. We have seen an enormous amount of mental health media coverage in recent months thanks to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s Heads Together campaign and the first ever mental health marathon. We are so grateful to the media for getting behind the campaign and helping to raise vital awareness.

“Following Prince Harry’s candid interview with The Daily Telegraph Mad World podcast we saw a 38% increase in calls to our Mind infoline. This was surpassed the day after the London Marathon broadcast on the BBC and covered extensively in the press, when we witnessed a 58% increase, our busiest day ever with a record number of calls. Media reporting can really be a lifeline. It has been amazing that the media coverage of the London Marathon has given a platform to so many people to speak out about their own experiences. We urge journalists and programme-makers to continue this welcome trend of reporting on mental health.”