Campaign to change the images the media use to present mental health

  • A campaign has been launched to try to change the type of images used by the media for stories about mental health, which is being back by Stephen Fry. /images/mentalhealth.jpg

    The images in question are the ones containing a solitary figure with their head in their hands, often in dark sombre lighting. These are often referred to as the "headclutcher", reports the BBC.

    Charities and campaigners argue that people with mental illnesses do not always "look" depressed, and images should not depict this.

    "One in four of us will have a mental health problem in any year - and our responses are very, very varied - we don't all spend our time slumped in a corner with our heads in our hands," says Sue Baker, the director of Time to Change.

    The campaign has been launched by Time to Change and it's called ‘Get The Picture'.

    Research conducted by the campaign group found that 80% of the 2,000 respondents said the "headclutcher" image didn't convey how it feels to have a mental health problem.

    Adam Goldberg from the stock photo agency Alamy says the "headclutcher" is an example of the complex decision-making processes journalists have to make when choosing how to illustrate a story.

    "It's extremely difficult to illustrate internal feelings," he says. "If there is a story about somebody with depression the reader is not going to expect to see somebody smiling, for example. While typical images around mental health may be reductionist, it means the reader needs less clues to know what the story is about."

     As a result of the campaign, Time to Change has released a series of pictures, free to use by the media via photography company Newscast, that they feel more accurately portrays mental health, and are easy for journalists to access.

    The campaign has received the backing of the UK Picture Editors Guild, which is just as keen to see some fresh, realistic and more positive images associated with mental health problems.

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