Why the mental health media charter is so important

Image credit: The Mental Health Media Charter

The Cambridge Student signed the Mental Health Media Charter on World Mental Health Awareness Day, October 10. In an article published on the paper’s website, Editor-in-Chief Sophie Dickinson stated that “the values expressed in the charter are shared amongst the editorial team”, and that the paper has “made a commitment to the sensitive reporting of mental health issues”.

This act only seems more important in light of this week’s Features theme: mental health awareness. Mental health is a pertinent issue worldwide, and as most students in Cambridge will know only too well, a pertinent issue in the University itself. CUSU’s 2016-17 Big Cambridge Survey Report found that only 36 percent of undergraduates found the University a “healthy and positive place to study”, and that only 24 percent of students with a mental health condition agreed.

On a more unofficial note, mental health issues have extended further to university-based social media, including the popular Facebook pages Memebridge, Crushbridge and Grudgebridge. While many mental health related posts on these platforms have been positive and supportive, often encouraging students to seek help or simply offering comfort, there have also been several posts calling students out on the “special snowflake syndrome”. Others further claim that the inability to cope is a sign of weakness or failure.

Such comments are only counterproductive, and undermine how important the issue really is; the Mental Health Media Charter recognises the importance of the press’ responsibility. It stipulates that the press should “avoid giving too much detail on suicide/self- harm or eating disorder methodology”, acknowledging that “stories should focus on ‘whys’, now ‘hows’”. It also calls for links to “good quality sources of support if content might trigger need for help in a reader”, thereby emphasising the media’s potential to not only report, but to help.

This is what this week’s Features section has set out to do – by shedding light on available resources in the University, as well as allowing the people behind these movements to share their opinions, awareness about mental health issues can hopefully be increased. Conversations, after all, must first be started in order to offer support or to find solutions. 

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