UNITED KINGDOM: How a visual cliché about mental health can slip through

April 24, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

The Guardian

Even for newspapers that are committed to responsible reporting on suicide and mental illness, it can be a challenge to find appropriate images to accompany articles on these topics. The Guardian was recently reproached by readers for illustrating an article on depression with what some call a typical “headclutcher” photo, showing a person holding his head in apparent suffering. The newspaper replaced the photo and is actively seeking appropriate options for the future. A campaign called “Time to Change,” launched by two United Kingdom advocacy groups to challenge mental health discrimination, surveyed supporters of their organizations on their opinions of this commonly used image. Of 2,000 respondents, around 1,600 said that these “headclutchers” don’t accurately represent their experience of mental illness. The campaign has compiled a publicly accessible collection of alternative images, and The Guardian has issued a call to its online readers to submit their own images – both photographs and illustrations – for consideration.

Spark Extra! Check out Get the Picture, a collection of free, non-stigmatizing, downloadable images about mental health issues created by the Time to Change campaign.