Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness, talk about our mental health, tackle the stigma, reach out or simply do something to better our own mental health.
Unfortunately, this day can be a very different day, it can very easily turn into a day that worsens our mental health and one that feeds into the stigma and misunderstandings around mental health.
I have spoken about mental health in the media before, as have so many others, yet it never seems to be enough as the media continue to use phrases and inappropriate methods of sharing mental health information and personal experiences.
Today sees the launch of Natasha Devon’s Mental Health Media Charter, a campaign which will change the way the media reports on mental health. The power of language, imagery and social media is huge and if done correctly can reduce stigma, raise awareness and educate many generations, ultimately saving lives from mental illnesses.
If you care about the way mental health is reported please follow me, along with many passionate mental health campaigners, as we support the Mental Health Media Charter.
Use the hashtag #MHMediaCharter, follow @MHMediaCharter & @_NatashaDevon along with the other organisations that have already shown their support in backing this wonderful campaign.
I used to feel ashamed of having an eating disorder, even with a diagnosis it was not enough to make me believe I had one. I mean, how could it? I did not look like that person on the television or the one in the newspaper.
Using images of unhealthy bodies, before and after photographs and numbers can lead people to believe they are not sick. Seeing this form of reporting left me feeling unworthy of treatment, reinforcing not only mine but societies misconception that to have an eating disorder a person must be thin.
Using the term ‘Anorexic’ or ‘Bulimic’ instead of explaining how a person experiences an eating disorder, a serious mental illness associates the person as the illness. I have been called ‘an anorexic’ and I cannot put into words how upsetting it is to hear that term, let alone see it in black and white for the whole world to see to.
Being called ‘an Anorexic’ lead me to believe that is all I was and I became very confused, I remember thinking I was anorexia. Looking back, I know better, I know that Anorexia is an illness and that words get thrown around but there really is no excuses. Nobody should feel like this.
I talk about mental health the best I can, yet writing a post on my personal experiences does not come easy. I spend days reading my post over and over again before publishing, making sure nothing I post could be harmful to anybody who maybe reading. If only I could say the same about the media.
How many eating disorder articles, interviews and television shows have you seen that focus on weight, food and harmful behaviours? I have been interviewed myself, asked ‘what food was like during my worst days?’ Something neither I want to relive or be used as a ‘shock factor’ headline, one that could give somebody a ‘she did this, you do this’ thought. Instead we should be focusing on what it feels like, awareness and support.
Four years ago, I was too ashamed and feared talking this way, now if I don’t stop writing this post will turn into an essay. The list of bad examples goes on but hopefully not for long, together let’s end bad mental health reporting.
No matter the size of our publication, the amount of followers we have or our target audience, we must take mental health in the media seriously, we
must take more care and educate ourselves on the correct ways of reporting.
Please if you do one thing today, read and share the Mental Health Media Charter.
Thank you for reading,
More of my mental health posts,
Mind, Time to Change, Samaritans, MHFA England, B-eat.