Mainstream media just wants the easy way out.
The majority of people get their news and information via mainstream media and while we tell ourselves, we won’t believe everything we hear it is still hard for us as a society to not be sucked in. When it comes to mental health it is not portrayed in a positive light but rather as a way for the media to ‘justify’ a person’s actions or present them as someone who should be feared. Why? When mental health is something so many of us suffer from in some degree.
It goes from celebrities to criminals, is it fair for the media to use someone’s health against them. It is used when a celebrity takes to twitter to voice their opinions. While it is obvious the person is just sharing their beliefs or is in a troubled place, the media still goes and uses this against them without question. Some of the more notable cases include that of actress Amanda Bynes and rapper Kanye West, both people that use social media as a coping mechanism gone wrong. Yet nobody seems to question why they might be doing what they’re doing, instead we seem to choose to believe the opinion of some mainstream journalist that is looking to make quick money. It seems that as soon as a journalist discovers that someone suffers from something such as depression, they jump to the premature conclusion that all their actions henceforth can be explained by this condition.
When it comes to the actions of killers, thieves and any other criminal is it right for the media to say that a person’s actions are primarily down to their mental health? While to some degree a person’s mental health should be taken into consideration, it is ultimately erroneous for the media to say ‘they are depressed’ that is why they did the crime. The more likely explanation is that their crime had nothing to do with their mental illness. And that’s how mental illness gets its bad stigma. Using mental health as a scapegoat gives its sufferers a bad reputation. Instead of educating the public the media exploits it and terrorises it with ‘X gone crazy’ horror stories.
Whilst as a society we are choosing to educate ourselves more about mental health, there is still something of a moral panic about it. It’s possible that the mainstream media does not fully understand the effect their views have on people’s thinking Mental illness has been exploited most notably in film and television, frequently showing the mentally ill person as the ‘villain’, to be stopped for the sake of society.
Despite the misleading press coverage, there are some helpful role models. Former BBC Radio 1 presenter Fearne Cotton and author Matt Haig are using their status to share personal troubles with mental health. This frankness allows people to understand that sufferers with mental health problems are not some demonic creatures that must be feared and avoided.
As more people start to come forward in the talk about mental health, the media’s ability to exploit this subject to their advantage will lessen, forcing them to consider the truth – for a change.