There was a time when newspaper, radio and television coverage in Canada usually mentioned mental health only when there was a tragedy involving someone with a serious, untreated mental illness. This influenced how many people viewed mental health issues.
Mental illness was seen as something shameful or dangerous, related to being out of control or violent. Even though the Canadian Mental Health Association stated for many decades that the evidence proved that people with mental illness were no more violent than the general population, the media helped skew perspectives otherwise.
The Centre’s Evolution of Workplace Mental Health in Canada Research project, released in February of this year, provides a look at the trends in media related to mental health over the past decade. We thankfully have come a long way, but there’s still more work to do.
In 2008 one of Canada’s leading national newspapers, the Globe and Mail made some headway with a detailed and well-reported series on mental illness that also included stories related to the workplace. This may have started the movement toward more thorough and informed reporting on topics related to mental illness.
At another time, Andre Picard, a health reporter who became renowned for advocating for an accurate portrayal of mental illness, was interviewed by Dr. Robert Whitley a researcher from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute about how things were shifting in media coverage.
In this video, journalist and author Linden MacIntyre calls out the media on past social attitudes related to mental illness and challenges all journalists to help increase knowledge and continue to evolve the collective mindset through “good journalism”. The Mindset video lower down on the same page features perspectives from reporters Andre Picard and Karen Pauls, along with Michael Kirby of Partners for Mental Health.
The cause was no doubt helped even more when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lent his voice to the 2016 national Mental Health Week campaign by issuing a public statement encouraging Canadians to GET LOUD for mental health. Abroad we are also seeing the Royal Family involved in battling mental health stigma through their philanthropic work.
Awareness campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk have also helped reach the general population. The number of celebrities and leaders who have spoken up about their experiences with mental illness have also helped to shatter stereotypes and dispel myths about who experiences mental illness.
They are helping us all recognize that mental illness is part of the human condition and that mental health is something we should all protect.
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