On Monday 7th October popular tabloid newspaper The Sun published on their front page ‘1,200 killed by mental patients’. When I went onto Twitter that morning my feeds were full of tweets regarding the headline from mental health charities and other followers. It shocked me so much I didn’t believe it at first, until I went onto the tabloid’s website.
The Sun is completely irresponsible for publishing such a headline. The headline itself, the phrase ‘mental patient’ reminds me of stories of patients suffering inhumane treatment back in the ’70s and ‘80s. It’s a term, which is derogatory, means a patient who is suffering from a mental illness and receiving treatment. According to The Sun I am a ‘mental patient’, along with millions of other Britons undergoing treatment for their mental health problems. The Sun, along with other media, must make an effort in using more acceptable language when addressing someone who has a mental illness. Mind, a mental health charity, already has a page on this very subject: http://www.mind.org.uk/help/media/how_to_report_on_health
It was made clear by other tabloids and media that the statistics used by The Sun were fabricated. Half of those killed were by people with a mental health problem diagnosed BEFORE the murder, the other half by those diagnosed AFTERWARDS. But looking at statistics of all homicides committed in the UK in that 10 year time span of 2001-2011 those deaths account for 5% of all homicides. It is still a tragedy that any murder is committed but if The Sun want a shock factor in high number of deaths then they may want to turn their attention to road traffic accidents and drinking related incidents.
What we all must remember is that this level of violence from those with a mental illness is RARE. Unfortunately films and other entertainment have branded those with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses as unstable and dangerous when this really is not the case. With the correct treatment plan they can lead a normal day-to-day life with limited problems.
Charities such as Mind, Rethink and Time to Change have all worked hard to help end stigma and discrimination against those with a mental illness and irresponsibility from tabloids, like The Sun, ruin their work. I try to be honest about my illness, it’s my way of breaking the taboo, but since this headline has been published I don’t want to risk being discriminated against. I am also concerned that this headline will make the public believe that those with a mental illness are dangerous, if so I worry for their safety. After all, it has been proven that those with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of crime than the rest of the public.