Media influences on mental health policy: long-term effects of the Clunis and Silcock cases.
Authors: Hallam A
Source: International Review of Psychiatry 14(1):26-33.
Abstract: During the 1900s a lot of incidents occurred that involved homicides, acts of violence, suicide, and neglect following which the policy aimed at providing community care to people with mental illness became an important issue. The media played an important role in creating awareness amongst the people by stressing on such cases, influencing the opinion of the public, and encouraging responses towards policies. The present paper presents a report on a small research study that was conducted to examine the effects of the published materials in national newspapers on developing policies related to mental health issues. Two persons with the diagnosis of schizophrenia served as cases for the present study including Christopher Clunis who was involved in the killing of a stranger at a London tube station and Ben Silcock who was responsible for climbing into the lion's den at London zoo. The press coverage received by these cases was analyzed at the time they occurred and over the next eight years. The authors also tried to trace the effects of the materials that were published on the policy decisions. Broadsheet papers published most of the relevant articles. The popular tabloid press showed very little interest in publishing the same. The language used for the purpose of describing the predicament of Ben Silcock and Christopher Clunis was filled with emotions and was appropriate for making headlines. However, this wasn't the work of the journalists only. There were other campaigners who were well informed and wished to use their knowledge to create awareness about people with mental health problems so that they receive better care. Issues such as the risks people with schizophrenia may pose to themselves and especially to others were highlighted. This kind of publicity lead to an unbalanced debate about the policies. It was seen that the policies that were implemented in response to the public concerns regarding the risks and dangerousness associated with people with mental health problems has led to additional constraints on this population. Additionally, individual service professionals have been given responsibilities (and blame when the system fails). This kind of development suggests long-term implications related to recruitment and morale in professions associated with health and social care. (CIRRIE Abstract)
Institution: Inst Psychiat, Ctr Econ Mental Hlth, Hlth Serv Res Dept, London SE5 8AF, England. firstname.lastname@example.org