News reports and soap and drama storylines about mental health are having a huge impact on audiences, new findings released by Mind show today. More than half (52%) of people who have seen a storyline involving a character with mental health problems say it helped to improve their understanding of mental health problems, while one in four (23%) have been inspired to start a conversation about mental health after seeing a story about mental health in the news.
The charity's research comes as the Mind Media Awards, which celebrate the best examples of reporting and portrayals of mental health in print, broadcast, film and digital media, opens for entries today (Wednesday 27 April). The event, which has been running for over 20 years, invites journalists, bloggers, broadcasters, film-makers and production teams to submit work which has helped to raise awareness of mental health problems and tackle outdated stereotypes.
"Shows like Cyberbully can really help young people to build up the courage to ask for help or to accept that what is going on in the classroom or online isn't acceptable. I feel like it inspires young people to pick up the phone or talk to a parent or just get help." -Maisie Williams
Mind's poll results also reveal that for those respondents who have mental health problems, nearly a third had been encouraged to seek help or support after seeing or reading a news story while a quarter (25%) were prompted to find help by storylines involving a character with a mental health problem.
Interestingly, men who had personally experienced a mental health problem were much more likely to be moved in this way. More than one in three (37%) men said that seeing a storyline involving a character with a mental health problem encouraged them to seek professional help or support compared to 15% of women.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “These statistics show just how powerful all forms of media can be in encouraging people to go and see their GP, call a helpline or just get in touch with a friend or family member with a mental health problem. Media portrayals and reporting, when done well, can be a lifeline. Drama storylines in particular can help people who might be struggling to feel less alone and they play a vital role in signposting to the help and support that is available.
“It’s fantastic that we are seeing more media coverage which offers a sensitive, compelling and realistic representation of mental health. We urge journalists and programme-makers to continue this welcome trend of showing people with mental health problems as a whole and giving a platform to more people to speak out about their experiences.
“We’re looking forward to receiving strong entries to this year’s Mind Media Awards to showcase the great work we have seen in the media over the last year which not only challenges and changes attitudes towards mental health, but also saves lives.”
Actress Maisie Williams, who appeared in the Mind Media Awards winning drama Cyberbully in 2015 said:
“Shows like Cyberbully can really help young people to build up the courage to ask for help or to accept that what is going on in the classroom or online isn’t acceptable. I feel like it inspires young people to pick up the phone or talk to a parent or just get help.
“After Cyberbully was aired in the UK, we had the anti-bullying line on afterwards and they had a massive influx in calls from kids and teenagers who had been too frightened to speak out and try and stop whatever is happening and I feel like it gave them the confidence to do that.
“In Casey’s situation (Maisie’s character in Cyberbully) after her friends and family found out about her mental health issues and struggles online they didn’t judge her. They accepted it and they were very forgiving and very helpful. And I think seeing that, for someone who may be going through something similar, would hopefully be uplifting. No one is going to judge you, there are people out there who want to help you. I hope that is the message people get from a series like Cyberbully.”
Last year the Mind Media Awards received hundreds of entries from across UK media. The list of winners on the night was dominated by local and regional media including BBC Somerset’s Ben McGrail and Sam Blackledge of the Plymouth Herald.
The judging panel for the Mind Media Awards is made up of a panel of media industry experts, many of whom have personal experience of mental health problems or have previously been honoured for their work at the awards.
Winners will be announced at a celebratory event at the Troxy on Monday 14 November 2016 which will bring together celebrities, media industry professionals and people who have shared their personal experiences through the media.
The categories open for entry for the Mind Media Awards 2016 are:
Special Awards selected by our judging panel
To be eligible for the Mind Media Awards, programmes or articles must have been broadcast or published in the UK, or have been available online between 9 June 2015 and 17 June 2016 (inclusive). The deadline for entries is Friday 1 July 2016.
For more information about the categories, criteria and how to enter please visit www.mind.org.uk/awards. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with @MindCharity using the tag #mindawards.
Polling was conducted by Populus who interviewed 2,063 GB adults online between 6 and 8 November 2015. Populus is a member of the British Poling Council and abides by its rules. For more information visit www.populus.co.uk