Tuesday, November 3, 1998 Published at 02:11 GMT
'Prejudiced press' targeted by mental health charity
Mind says it is campaigning for a "balanced" view of the mentally ill
The public are being asked to challenge media reporting that panders to prejudices about mental illness.
Mental health charity Mind is launching its Campaign to Complain on Tuesday, the first day of its annual conference.
It says research has shown that more than 60% of the mentally ill blame media articles for the discrimination they face.
A report by the Health Education Authority last year stated that 40% of tabloid articles about mental health used pejorative words such as "nutter" and "loony".
Almost 50% of press coverage of mental health was about crime, violence or self-harm and less than 8% was positive.
Sunday broadsheets were more likely than their daily counterparts to report mental health issues in a negative way.
Mind's campaign, which is supported by the Press Complaints Commission, will set up a network of people - 'Mind Media Guardians' - who will monitor the national and local press, including television and radio documentaries and dramas.
Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, said: "I am pleased to support Mind's campaign.
"The PCC itself has recently produced guidelines for editors on this issue - reminding them to avoid the use of language which could cause distress to people with mental health problems and their families, or which could create a climate of public fear."
Mind says much reporting of mental illness fuels the myth that mentally ill people are violent.
Judi Clements, chief executive of Mind, said: "People with mental health problems are subjected to ridicule and abuse on a daily basis. A lot of the abuse they suffer is related to media reporting of mental health issues and the use of language like 'psychos' and 'nutters' across all media sections."
Around one in seven people suffer from mental illness in the UK. This includes as many as a quarter of all children.
A recent Health Education Authority report showed that a third of people with mental health problems said they had been physically abused.
While racism and other prejudices were mainly to blame, the stigma attached to mental illness was also said to have provoked many attacks.
Mind's campaign is the most recent attempt to try to reduce bias against the mentally ill, in the wake of several high-profile attacks by community care patients.
In April, Focus on Mental Health, an umbrella group of mental health groups working with the Department of Health, launched an advertising campaign which drew parallels between racist language and terms such as "nutter".
The launch was backed by junior health minister Paul Boateng.
Mind's conference in Brighton will kick off with a speech from Australian MP and former Shadow Attorney General Neil Cole, who was forced to resign from the shadow cabinet after being diagnosed with manic depression - despite the fact that his popularity grew as a result.