Recently it feels that wherever I look a new story comes out about mental health and how it is affecting our young people. I have a variety of emotions over these stories.
- The majority of these stories are badly written, they are sensationalised trying to use issues like suicide and self harm as a way to garner attention rather than as part of serious mental health conditions.
- They use actual facts as a way to back up their sensationalised story, it’s clever writing but lazy journalism. These people have the power to make a difference, instead they buy into the stigma.
- They like to use shocking headlines which may even be triggering.
- The journalists rarely discuss long term mental illness, it’s long term affects, how people can be in recovery and “seem” OK to the outside world but still be very sick. This leads nicely into my final point…
- Young people are not the only people affected with mental illness. Limiting these stories to young people limits the story, focuses the stigma, and makes a massive group of adults start to feel ignored and insignificant.
It’s this, my final point, which raises the most concern for me, the rest apply regardless who the article is written around and these are factual things that journalists need to learn are unfair and inconsiderate.
I am not diminishing that we need to tackle mental health issues in young people, we do, we need to work with schools around awareness, help parent’s and ensure children’s mental health services get far more funding.
I also believe there is nowhere near a good enough transition between child and adult mental health services. I made that transition and it was scary and uncomfortable.
As someone who has made all of the transitions through mental health, having received my first diagnosis at 9yrs, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of change in services and stigma. But there is still so far to go.
These articles could raise the issues about young people self harming, trying to take their lives, suffering with stress, anxiety, depression, and so on from such young ages and discuss how the services which should be there to support them are failing. How they aren’t being correctly diagnosed, there aren’t adequate therapies in place via schools, GP’s and so forth.
This kind of information can lead into how as they mature, and become more mature adults their issues worsen, their illnesses may finally get diagnosed but often the lack of support means, coping mechanisms such as self harming continue into middle age and beyond.
These reporters could talk about different lifelong mental illnesses that these young people are likely starting to show signs of and instead of being supported they are being left to fend for themselves.
Instead these reporters go for stigma and sensationalism. Referring to things like self harm as a fad, something they are turning to to alleviate boredom and stress. They sensationalise suicide stats twisting them so they can blame whatever the latest trend is in the blame game be it a music genre, movies, video games, poverty etc (my views around this topic are a whole other post!)
In the same vein ignoring whole sections of the mental health community because it is trendy is also not helpful. The only time us “adults” make the media is when we are being referred to as “scroungers” or “benefit cheats” for daring to need financial support to look after our illness.
Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, so why do people feel the need to start pigeon holeing those affected? Those of us who have passed the age of young adulthood aren’t insignificant, we are entitled to a voice and support.
In a few years, today’s young adults will have joined us and they will still be needing support and it would be nice to think that by then the journalists will have grown up and pulled their socks up a little aswell.