Newsflash: mental health reporting sucks

But it can be fixed. Here’s how.

I’m tired.

Tired of waking up to news reports that include terms like this…

These were real, and just within the last one week. (You’d think an 11-time TV-station-of-the-year-winner would know better, right?)

Just in case you have any trouble with the images, worry not, as I intend to break them down further anyway.

Pulse.ng informed us of…

“A mentally challenged mother-of-six” who “committed suicide.”

Because, of course, if she’d taken her life because she was sick with malaria fever, they would have said she was “temperature-challenged.”

Channels TV announced a government initiative to build clinics to…

“stimulate fast recovery of psychiatric and mentally derailed patients.”

Setting aside our gratitude for their alerting us to the (hitherto unknown) distinction between “psychiatric” and “mentally derailed patients, one must wonder: if the clinics had been for people with heart conditions, would they have said “cardiovascularly derailed patients”?

And it wasn’t that long ago that I read a report about an “inmate” in who had been “released” from a mental health “institution” in which he had been “detained.”

I could have sworn those “institutions” were usually called hospitals and it was patients who were admitted and discharged from them. But what do I know? “The times, they are a-changing, right?

Not on your life.

My initial response

Listen up, newspeople—and everyone.

We deserve better.

And by “we,” I don’t just mean people with mental illness, I mean “we” in its fullest sense. All of us: Nigerians, Africans, humans. Because this affects us all.

It affects us all because the way the news is reported seeps into our collective thinking, even when we don’t realise it.

It affects us all because the way you report mental illness ends up being the way we talk about it, among ourselves and, even worse, to those who live with it, feeding an already massive stigma.

But we’re here for it. And for you.

Not to worry, we’ll give you a heads up first.

First, download and read these guidelines from Time to Change. It’s a PDF, and if you are a newsroom, for the love of all that is good, print it out and put it on a wall somewhere everyone can see it. Please. I’m begging.

An excerpt from the PDF I’m begging you to download. Downloaded yet?

Second, watch this video. It’s just under 8 minutes and it’ll probably do you more good than watching the one they just sent in your WhatsApp group.

Third (and especially if you’re involved in TV series as a writer, director or whatever), read this other set of guidelines. And then watch this video too/:

Now, go and sin no more.

Want to read more on this issue?

7 Ways Nollywood Misleads Us on Mental Illness

7 Ways Nollywood Misleads Us on Mental Illness


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