Some of my Media Work
I have appeared in the media over 30 times speaking about mental health, for TV, Radio, Internet and Print Media. I do it because I want to challenge stigma, discrimination and perception of mental health. The media is very powerful. If the only contact you have with someone who has psychosis is what you read in the paper, you could be mistaken for thinking we are all axe-carrying murderers. We are not.
The link is so strong and pervasive that most of the public think people with psychosis are violent, but is a highly illogical one. If you consider that 1 in 4 people experience mental distress, this does not automatically mean that 1 in 4 people are violent and dangerous. (Hale, A. 1997)
There have been a multitude of studies looking into the link between mental health and violence, all over the world, and what they consistently show are findings like these:
- One study in the USA found that mental illness is not a useful predictor of violent crime even with released prisoners. (Linda Teplin, L. Abram, K. and McCelland, G.M.,1994)
- The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems. In fact, 95 per cent of homicides in the UK are committed by people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem. (Kings College London, 2006)
One wonders, if the feeling of rejection, feeling inferior, isolation and difference contributes to the figures of suicide amongst people with severe mental health issues. 5,000 people kill themselves in the UK every year. 1,200 of these people have been in touch with mental health services in the past 12 months. Many of these are likely to be people with schizophrenia and under the age of 35 (Department of Health. 2002)
Things need to change in the media. I am doing it in my own small way.
Psychosis in media is rarely an experience that is looked upon with empathy or an open mind. Typically when included in a narrative, mental illness is used as a metaphor/motif for difference, to show that it is a totally alien experience to the average person, and that there are clear cut boundaries between the sane and the insane. Bring me into the nightmare but please show me that I am not a permanent resident.
We have become monsters in the eyes of society, thanks in part to the media. I am trying to show people with psychosis can be intelligent, funny, compassionate and talented, and so many other things.
I am also using the media to tell my story, and to challenge the medical model view of madness. I am trying to bring psychiatry's many elephants in the room to the media zoo.
Thankfully more and more journalists are addressing the imbalance in the media.