IPSO Blog: Reporting mental health

Standards Officer Rosemary Douce on discussions around mental health reporting at the latest IPSO Readers' Panel.

This week we hosted a meeting of IPSO’s Readers’ Panel to discuss the reporting of mental health issues in the press.

The Readers’ Panel meet three times a year to provide a lay person’s perspective on the role of IPSO, press regulation and standards of reporting. The panel’s feedback has help shape IPSO‘s work, including our information for members of the public, and the meetings feature discussions on a wide range of topics including trust in news reporting and the IPSO mark.

Reporting around mental health is currently very topical, as a number of celebrities and other high profile individuals have recently spoken out about their own mental health experiences.

This week was also the week that the Mind media awards took place. These awards celebrate the best portrayals of mental health, recognising the role of the media in promoting understanding and conversations.

The shortlist for the publications award recognised a number of IPSO members including The Daily Telegraph’s campaign to secure better protection for children from online harms; Bauer Media’s “Where’s your head at?” campaign  to ensure parity of treatment for mental and physical health in UK workplaces and college; and winner JPI Media’s investigation into veterans’’ mental health.

To kick start the discussion around mental health reporting, panellists all chose a recent article on the subject of mental health from a variety of IPSO-regulated publications. 

Interestingly, before the meeting, several panellists expected that reports on these issues might be controversial and anticipated seeing use of negative terms to describe those with mental health problems. To many people’s surprise, the majority of articles they discussed were considered to be sensitive and responsibly written. It seems that pejorative terms like “nutter” which may have appeared frequently in the past, have largely disappeared.

Several panellists brought their own personal and professional experiences to the discussion which added another perspective on how well mental health issues are reported.

Some of the articles were inevitably hard-hitting, and provoked strong emotions from the panel, particularly those about suicides of young people who had suffered mental health problems. Some panellists felt that a couple of articles could be considered dismissive, particularly when talking about the mental health challenges faced by young people.

Panellists all said they welcomed the opportunity to discuss the issues raised. Feedback on the meeting was positive and considered by one to be “illuminating.”

The discussions will feed into the wider work of IPSO’s Standards function.