Tabloid newspaper The Sun has been heavily criticised by mental health charities for a front-page headline that read ‘1,200 killed by mental patients’.
While the full story admits that many of the “high risk patients” who committed murder over the past decade were let down by the system, the newspaper has been accused of stigmatising people with mental ill health.
The article also acknowledges that the number of murders committed by people with mental illness has remained unchanged for decades.
In response, Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and Paul Jenkins, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, released a joint statement saying: “It's incredibly disappointing to see a leading newspaper splash with such a sensational and damaging headline.
“The figures used are disputable: in the article itself, it’s acknowledged that the numbers of homicides by people with mental illness has actually stayed the same for decades. In fact some studies suggest that the numbers have gone down in recent years. There are 1.2 million people using secondary mental health services – the vast majority of whom pose no threat to anyone. And in reality, people with mental health problems are more likely to be victims of crime than the general population.
“We can’t afford for the call for improvements in mental health care to be led by a stigmatising debate focused on tragic but very rare incidents of violence.
“This headline, which will be seen by millions of people today, creates a completely false picture which will only fuel the stigma and prevent more people from seeking help and support when they need it, including when they are in crisis.
“We urge all media outlets to use extreme caution when reporting issues like this, and ask that they look at the guidelines produced by Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.”