Yesterday I was sent two media reports that were very troubling to me. Things that in the past probably wouldn’t have frustrated me, but I’ve become much more educated about mental illness and the responsibility of media in reporting about it.
The first sent to me by Eileen (@Calondro5) was by an MSNBC blog about the attempted suicide of celebrity figures. The story not only described the method of the attempt, but also downplayed the complicated web of circumstances and emotional issues associated with mental illness. It was a story that could help no one and might just hurt. It’s a proven statistic that suicide reports that are sensationalized and include the method are often followed by copycats or contagion of suicide.
If you ever see such a story, please know there is a complete document available that includes comprehensive recommendations for responsible media reporting of suicide. You can find it HERE. The first thing I did after reading the MSNBC report was to forward them the recommendations. Have I gotten a response? No. Will I? Probably not. But hopefully my message educated someone. With each small step we can make change.
The second story forwarded to me yesterday by Jennifer (@zrecsmom) was about postpartum depression on the blog of the first lady of California Maria Shriver. This blog’s tagline is “ideas, inspiration and information for agents of change” but clearly her staff dropped a giant ball when running this PPD story.
Postpartum Support International provides recommendations and information for reporting of postpartum illnesses HERE, just FYI in case you ever come across other stories that are ill-researched or irresponsible.
Even blogs (if publicly promoted) should publish accurate information, particularly in regard to wellness topics that may harm more than help others.
Mental illness is an isolating and complex medical condition. Minimizing the need for true treatment and therapies by trained professionals, or sensationalizing deaths or attempted self-harm, does nothing but hurt. It contributes to stigmas and discourages treatment.
So if you’re interested in helping reduce stigmas, there’s one small thing you can proactively do (and I promise I will do). Forward media recommendations above to any reporters or bloggers you see who are not following the guidelines.
Education is key to fighting stigma in my book.
Thanks so much for letting me spout off on this topic today. I hope you learned as much as I have from these experiences.