Mainstream media criticised by politicians
At the Committee meeting for Health and Children yesterday, RTE and the Irish Times were criticised for their lack of coverage of the See Change campaign. By Shane Creevy.
The See Change campaign, launched April 15, is an attempt to lower the level of suicide in Ireland by normalising mental health disorders.
John Moloney, Minister with responsibility for Mental Health Services, outlined the aims of See Change when he said at the Committee meeting yesterday that, “Regardless of how much funding that can be secured from government and regardless of all the capital programmes, unless we break the stigma attached to mental health we will have acquired nothing”.
(Picture: Bryan Dobson, RTE Six One News anchor)
(Audio: John Moloney explains the potential of the See Change campaign.)
(Audio: Caoimhghin O Caolain and John Moloney criticise the mainstream media coverage of mental health.)
See Change will attempt to decrease stigma through education, by offering support and treatment, and by encouraging honesty in personal relationships, so that people feel they can talk openly.
Margaret Conlon of Fianna Fail welcomed the See Change campaign as a positive development. She suggested that there should be increased initiatives in Transition Year to educate teenagers on the prevalence of mental health problems.
She told the Committee, “For me, I suppose the most compelling thing during the [launch of See Change] was when Eileen Dunne said one in four of us will suffer from breast cancer and one or more in four of us will suffer from some form of mental illness episode during our lives. And yet, I suppose, the media portrayal and the media image of both is so different. Mental illness is not featured in the same way as breast cancer”.
Mr. Moloney appealed to the media to work with the government to highlight the importance of mental health care in Ireland and registered his displeasure with the lack of coverage by the mainstream media.
He said, “We absolutely pinned our hopes on hoping that the media would pick up what I would consider a very important intervention in how we’re going to deal with the whole mental health problem of stigma... It struck me as if it was a conspiracy the next day [after the launch of See Change], there wasn’t as much as a mention.”
Caoimhghin O Caolain of Sinn Fein criticised RTE and the Irish Times, as can be heard on the audio report below.
John Saunders, Director of Shine, told Politico that the lack of media coverage was due to three factors. He said, “First of all the event itself is what I would call a good news story. In other words it didn’t come across as something that was newsworthy. Second I think it’s obvious the Icelandic issue overtook the printed press at least and certainly it diverted a lot of the television coverage away from other issues that week”.
He continued, “The third issue is that mental health is not held in high esteem by the media and doesn’t receive the kind of prominence other issues get”.
Politico contacted RTE and the Irish Times but neither furnished a reply.
While the mental health budget has been cut to just 5% of the overall health budget, Mr Moloney urged the Committee to remember that there was also other modes of funding. He said, “I would ask people to understand that it is not as dramatic or as drastic as it sounds”.
He pointed to the introduction of €3m to support the transition from institutionalised care to person-centred care, which helps families to become involved with the recovery of mentally ill patients.