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Mental health charity Mind finds nearly three in five people regularly hear harmful and stigmatising language.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023 Mind

Recent polling of nearly 8,000 people across LinkedIn and Instagram found nearly three in five people regularly hear harmful mental health language in the media and one in five people hear harmful language all the time.

The way we talk about mental health issues like OCD, suicide, and depression is having a huge impact on those of us with mental health problems.

Harmful language can increase feelings of isolation and at times prevent people with mental health problems from seeking support.

That’s why today Mind launches new media guidelines around language to help tackle mental health stigma. 

At a time when we are facing a mental health crisis with eight million people on a waiting list for treatment, it’s crucial the media helps raise awareness and provides accurate information about mental health.

  • Nearly three in five (56%) of people polled on LinkedIn told us they regularly notice harmful language when talking about mental health and one in five (23%) notice harmful language all the time.
  • Mind launches its first mental health guidelines to help improve the way we talk about mental health in the media. 

Mind is urging programme makers, journalists, and media professionals to make sure we are not refuelling negative mental health stereotypes.

Mind ambassador and former Coronation Street star for more than 30 years, Beverley Callard who herself has experienced depression says:

“What we are trying to do is stop people using words like ‘oh she’s a loony tune’ or ‘she’s crazy’ or ‘she’s a bit mad’, just because it goes against what we’re fighting against and what we’re trying to achieve.

“I personally experienced clinical depression a long time ago, and I always remember how someone said to me: ‘Because I’d had clinical depression, I would be flaky and unreliable’. So, we all have to really think about what we’re saying in terms of reducing mental health stigma.”

Presenter and campaigner, Jess Davies, who has raised awareness about the media’s portrayal and sexualisation of women says:

“From my own experience, I’ve seen how upsetting it can be for someone you love to be on the receiving end of negative and stigmatising comments regarding their mental health, that some may perceive as ‘banter’.

With 56% of respondents regularly noticing harmful language when it comes to mental health, it reminds us that there is still a long way to go to destigmatise the conversation and treat others with the respect and understanding we all deserve.”

33-year-old Sandeep, who lives in London has experience of anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), social anxiety and OCD. Sandeep says: 

“I’ve had to endure so much stigma in the way people talk about eating disorders. Even healthcare professionals have told me ‘I don’t look anorexic enough’ which is incredibly harmful. I will always remember these comments and remarks, they have stuck to me like a leech.

“I also hear so many comments about me being vain. But my diagnosis means I often go through rituals like mirror gazing or seeking assurances from others. These compulsive behaviours are a way of coping to essentially stay in control of my body.

“I experience immense feelings of guilt, fear, and anxiety. Despite this, I often hear the phrase ‘it’s just a phase’ related to BDD.  It’s not that straightforward to just press the on/off button – so often the language used does not reflect the realities of life. It just makes me feel alone, isolated and misunderstood.”

Alex Bushill, Head of Media & PR at Mind says: “Time to Change did a huge amount of work to reduce stigma and change the way we think and act about mental health. But we know that there is still a long way to go and that stigma surrounding mental health remains to have a huge and lasting impact on those of us with mental health problems.

“We know when the media gets it right, it can encourage people to seek help, allow people not to feel alone and make a lasting difference on people’s lives. That’s why our new language guide can act as a helpful tool for new or existing media professionals looking at reporting on or depicting mental health in the future.”

Download and read Mind’s Media Guidelines here -  

If you're working on a programme or mental health storyline contact Mind's Media Advisory service at [email protected]

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