Of course it can’t be merely coincidental. That only a week or two after the Almighty twitter storm that brewed up over Asda, tesco and amazon stocking Halloween costumes with insensitive, stigmatising names, The Sun decides to run a front page proclaiming “1200 killed by mental patients“. Ok. Maybe it’s progress. A few years ago it might have been “killed by nutters” or “psychos / schizos”. However I don’t think they’ve got the point of the campaigns to combat stigma around mental ill health.
What is the purpose of that headline? They misrepresent figures, omit to mention that homicide by people with mental health problems is lower than it has been in 7 years. What’s a mental patient? Are they seeking to make the public afraid of all those ordinary joes who tweeted their pictures as part of the excellent Mind response to the Halloween costume fiasco? Are they going to give us any more detail about the tragic circumstances around those deaths?
No one is saying that it never happens. It is a sad fact that sometimes it does. But unless I’m missing something – it is not only “mental patients” who kill people. Even if we take The Sun’s figures – 1200 in ten years. (Which maybe we shouldn’t) With a total number of homicides around 8089 for that period, you’d think it slightly more of a worthy story to say “6800 killed by people supposedly in their right minds”.
Who should you be more afraid of? You’re more likely to be killed by a drunk than someone with a mental health problem. And the stigma and fear that stories like this cause is one of the reasons that a “mental patient” is more likely to be a victim of violence than the cause of it. It’s also a major reason why people refuse to accept they are Ill, don’t seek help- and so if untreated their condition may worsen and the potential for a dangerous situation arising increases.
So again, I ask. What is that headline for? What is The Sun for? By alarming people, increasing stigma, they increase the risk they are bewailing. They hurt real people with complex problems that are more individual and difficult to deal with that can be expressed in the handy “mental patient” epithet.
The influence of our media is truly toxic these days. Has been for many many years. It is bad for our society and most certainly bad for our mental health and Wellbeing.