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Stereotypes can hurt

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Issue: A current affairs program aired a segment that linked mental illness to violence and crime. The reporting style reinforced the belief that people with mental illnesses are violent and dangerous. The public backlash about the offensive content played out on the program’s social media platforms and reflected SANE’s concerns.

Result: StigmaWatch contacted the Executive Producer of the current affairs program and explained why making informed choices about language when developing stories involving mental illness is of the utmost importance. We shared evidence that demonstrated how sensationalist reporting about mental illness can impact on the one in five Australians who experience it. The executive producer thanked us for our feedback and acknowledged our concerns. He forwarded our email to the reporter and supervising producer who worked on the segment and agreed to take our comments on board for future content. The episode in question was removed from the program’s website and all related social media posts were scrubbed.

Why it mattered: There is a public misconception that people who live with mental illness are prone to violence and dangerous behaviour. Living with a mental illness does not dictate someone will be violent.

Last updated: 15 June 2018