Mental health advocates criticize reporting on funding cuts | KNKX

Mental health advocates criticize reporting on funding cuts

Jan 3, 2011

Mental health advocates say news stories of social service budge cuts are unfairly stereotyping people who suffer from mental illness.

They say a case in point is a recent cover of The Stranger, which included the headline "How a decimated state budget equals more unmedicated loons with hatchets."

The story laid out in detail the troubled mental history of the man accused of killing someone with a hatchet and pointed out the importance of funding for mental health services.

But University of Washington professor Sue Lockett John sees a problem with this type of reporting even if it’s well intentioned.

  "Messages like this are very damaging to people who are living with mental illness because it sort of lumps them into this pool where they don’t belong," she said.

Rather than scary and dangerous, Sue Lockett John says the vast majority of people with mental illness can function well and do recover with treatment.

Lockett John is part of the Washington State Coalition for Mental Health Reporting.

In addition to chiding newspapers and broadcasters for stereotyping people living with mental illness, the coalition has criticized the Service Employees Union (SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW) for its recent campaign to save state funding for mental health programs.  A white paper released by the union featured headlines such as “Grandmother in Shooting Spree Battled Schizophrenia.”

The Coalition to Improve Mental Health reporting says the case for mental health funding should be made without demonizing the people who benefit from that funding.