CAMPAIGNS: Bearing in mind names that hurt - Public Awareness

The Health Education Authority (HEA), an authority within the NHS which advises Government on health education issues, runs an ongoing mental health campaign. One of the focuses of this campaign is to try to remove the stigma attached to people who suffer mental illness. The HEA works closely with mental health charity Mind. Using press cuttings compiled by Mind during 1996, Infopress Communications was commissioned to analyse press coverage of mental health issues.

The Health Education Authority (HEA), an authority within the NHS

which advises Government on health education issues, runs an ongoing

mental health campaign. One of the focuses of this campaign is to try to

remove the stigma attached to people who suffer mental illness. The HEA

works closely with mental health charity Mind. Using press cuttings

compiled by Mind during 1996, Infopress Communications was commissioned

to analyse press coverage of mental health issues.



Objectives



To make editors and journalists more aware about how they cover mental

illness and encourage them to write more positive articles, in turn

influencing public opinion and helping those suffering to feel better

about themselves.



Tactics



Infopress used its Impact media analysis system to analyse 1,035

articles from the national press. The analysis looked at how positively

or negatively the papers treated issues such as crime, violence and

self-abuse. It also tracked the use of stigmatising words such as

’nutter’, ’crazy’ and ’pervert’.



Key findings included: 46 per cent of coverage on mental health issues

was about crime, harm to others and self harm; broadsheets and tabloids

made a clear link between ill health, criminality and violence; 40 per

cent of daily tabloid articles contained stigmatising words like

’nutter’ and ’loony’; less than eight per cent of articles gave advice

and guidance about mental health issues.



Armed with these findings, the HEA wrote a report, ’Making Headlines;

Mental Health and the National Press’. The HEA and Mind issued press

releases based on the report and spent time selling these in to the

national papers and radio stations. A feature was arranged with the

journalists’ trade paper Press Gazette to appear on the day the report

was launched. Case studies using people who were willing to talk about

their problems were also prepared to attract regional interest.



The HEA has an ISDN link in its press office and campaign manager Dr

Lynne Friedli, and press officer Gary Ward, who wrote the report, were

on standby to do interviews.



Results



’The broadcast media were very keen to pick up the story,’ said the

HEA’s deputy head of press and PR, Richard Hunt. Sky News and Channel 5

carried interviews with Dr Lynne Friedli, and national radio coverage

included Radio 4 news and Today, Radio 1, Radio 5 Live and a phone-in on

the Jimmy Young Show. There were 38 items on regional radio on launch

day, including lengthy interviews on various magazine programmes.



The Guardian, the Independent and Express covered the report. There were

also many requests from journalists for the report.



Verdict



The HEA and Mind claimed this was the first time media analysis had been

used in a report of this type. The extensive coverage, particularly on

radio, proved the media loves writing about the media even when a report

is critical.



’We did anticipate some antagonism from the press, but most seemed to

take on board what we were saying which was very good,’ said Hunt. He

was particularly pleased to receive such widespread coverage because

earlier in the week the HEA had also received a huge amount of media

attention for its story about how images of smokers in magazines are

encouraging kids to start smoking earlier.



Whether the report will lead to more responsible and sympathetic

treatment of mental health issues in the media in the future only time

will tell, but the feedback received from journalists showed that it

made many stop and think.



Client: Health Education Authority and Mind

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Making Headlines

Timescale: February - ongoing

Cost: pounds 7,500



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