Tag Archives: Journalists

Are you a journalist ?

journalistsThe legal clause concerning discrimination states that the press must avoid prejudicial  references to a person’s race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation as well as to any physical or mental illness or other disability. These details should be omitted unless absolutely relevant to a case, because a thoughtless column can be so hurtful.

Another clause states that when reporting a suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used. People detained under the mental health act are patients, so language like caged or jailed are inaccurate and hurtful. Journalists have often been known to use other unacceptable adjectives and are also warned against using terms basket case, schizo or nutcase. Not only can such language cause distress to the family involved, it is detrimental to the patient’s treatment. It can also create a climate of public fear and rejection, adding to the already existing stigma.

Mr. Journalist, have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a child that is different from the other children?

imagesCAOZI1AFAs a journalist, have you ever wondered what it is like to have a child that is different from other children? Have you ever wondered how parents feel when they discover that their child cannot walk, cannot sit, cannot hear or see; or a child with Autism or Asperger’s?  Well, as parents of three,wonderful, healthy children, neither did my husband or I. Then, after our son was drafted into the armed forces, he became ill and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Neither of us dreamed that we could, we would … produce a defective child; not in our family; never. Well, our nightmare began when he was about 20 and was worse for him than for us; of course, our whole family was involved.

So, Mr. Journalist, before you write your next newspaper article or report on television, please think of me and the millions of people around the world who are trying to deal with mental illness in their families; who are simply trying to survive.

As I see it, the duty of a journalist is to provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Journalists recognize the power of words and images used to define and characterize a subject. You are encouraged to avoid stereotypical language and ensure the careful use of images, but as there are no definite guidelines when you are reporting about a person with a mental illness, it can be problematic. IF mental illness is important to a story, you may not assume that an illogical act of violence is the result of mental illness in general. Stating that a crime was committed by a person who has a history of mental illness, is often made on-scene by a first responder who might not even have direct knowledge of the person’s history. So, even if accurate, it may be irrelevant to the incident. Mental illness is not a defining characteristic of the ‘so-called criminal.’

It’s also advisable to avoid descriptions of an individual’s behavior that might contribute to the impression that all people with that particular illness exhibit similar behavior. A term like he was a schizophrenic in a rage, creates the impression that rages are common behavior for those experiencing schizophrenia.

But, Mr. Journalist, you could try to give the impression that mental illness is treatable and that people can recover; maybe not 100% but sufficiently to join the workforce and lead lives like the rest of us. That would be such a welcome change and would make a huge difference in the lives of those affected by this ravaging illness.

For every negative story about mental illness and violence, there are many positive ones that can be written about people in recovery who serve valuable roles in their communities. Reporters could write compelling personal stories about those who have recovered as there are so many who have experienced, lived through and survived mental illness who might be prepared to be interviewed and get their stories out there.

Please stop giving the public a distorted view of the facts. Imagine how you would feel if you were unfortunate enough to have one of these unfortunate people in your family.imagesCAORGEYH


Know me as a person and not by my mental illness !

I’ve heard a ‘weatherman’ describe the day’s weather forecast as schizophrenic; a journalist describe a woman suffering from a mental health problem as ‘a time bomb.’
A leading newspaper ran the following heading: INSANITY IN GAZA. When reporting on Serbia’s Mr. Milosevic, the following description; LEGACY OF A MADMAN, was used.

Insanity is equated with horror far too often, A television commercial once showed the picture of an iPod on a Man’s forehead with the following announcement; ‘Hearing voices in your head?’

Sanity is something we take for granted and if we lose our sanity, we grieve for it. No one can cause a mental illness. I repeat; NOBODY CAN CAUSE A MENTAL ILLNESS.

We need to break the silence surrounding mental illness, get it into our school systems as a subject for discussion; train our teachers to identify the first signs in their students and guide them toward getting the professional assistance they so badly need.


IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS … Journalism gone wrong

Profits as well as ‘yellow journalism’ are largely responsible for the stigma associated with mental illness, to a large extent. Unfortunately, if it bleeds, it leads.

If an officer shoots aperson suffering from a mental illness it is bound to make the front pages of every newspaper as well as on T.V. News.

Here are a few descriptions used by the media worldwide in relation to mental illness.

He didn’t take his meds.
She’s crazy.
She’s a violent seductress.
He’s a sly manipulator.
He’s a dangerto society.
A violentschizo.
She’s nuts, insane, a wacko, loony, a madman or demented.

As if there are no crimes committed by ‘so-called sane people.’

All this only helps to keep the stigma going. T
Is this true journalism?

Please help me to reduce the stigma.

If every person who is affected by a relative suffering from a mental illness writes a letter to his/her local newspaper, or sends me an e-mail to: Jill at netsad@netvision.net.il, I will make a point of adding them to my blog.


Mental illness attracts less empathy and far more discrimination than other illnesses.

Although early identification and treatment of the problem is essential, negative stereotypes deter people from acknowledging the early signs.

The importance of information about physical health is acknowledged far and wide, but our society’s understanding of mental health is less comprehensive.

Reducing the stigma requires widespread community education plus the willingness to challenge others when discrimination occurs.

Journalists need access to accurate up to date information to ensure that their reporting will not unintentionally reinforce negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, journalists all,over the world, use terms that only serve to perpetuate the awful stigma associated with mental illness.

The following are words used byone journalist or another :-
She didn’t take her meds.
He’s crazy.
She’s a violent seductress, a schizo, nuts, wacko, a madman, demented …

These terms only help keep the stigma going strong.

Is this the aim of an accurate journalist?