• Author:Ben Jones
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Mental health struggles; hiding in plain sight

Tonight is the 2017 Virgin Money Giving Mind Media Awards. This high profile and glitzy event – hosted by Fearne Cotton, who herself has opened up recently about her own battles with mental health – aims to be “celebrating honest, accurate and sensitive portrayals of mental health in the media”. It is an important event and rightly places high emphasis on how mental health is portrayed in the media – the way so many of us receive information and help form or inform our views. The event is being streamed live on Facebook.

This awards ceremony is a reminder of the brilliant work – life changing and life saving – that Mind does up and down the land every day of the week and of the vital role that so many play in the media to bring vital stories into our homes and lives. It is a fantastic organisation and should be proud of what it has achieved and continues to achieve. The better-informed, more enlightened media coverage of mental health – whether in news, documentaries or drama and entertainment programmes – is a sign that the stigma which has dogged mental health and mental health sufferers for years is being shifted. There is much more to do, but nights like tonight are a reminder of recent successes.

I just watched John Thompson receiving an award on behalf of Cold Feet for his portrayal of Pete’s depression and battle with suicide in the programme. He spoke movingly about the impact that his character’s storyline has had with people stopping him in the street to talk about how he helped them. We should never underestimate the positive impact the media can have by helping people relate to characters, stories and experiences – it can help break down barriers and remove stigmas.

I reflect on this today having caught the BBC Three documentary on suicides on universities campus – nearly doubling in the last ten years. The programme, “Death on Campus; our stories” charts the devastating stories of three students who took their own lives following battles with depression, anxiety and pressure. It was a chilling reminder of how many people who appear to be enjoying life on the outside, can be experiencing the most brutal torture on the inside, feeling that ending their lives was the only way to end their pain.

The lesson from such programmes is always the same; if only we could help people who are suffering to talk to someone, to open up, to reach out to others, to help them know that they are not alone. If you have a minute or two this week, check out the Mind website; donate some money; give some time; give some thought to those around you, many of whom will be battling with their mental health but hiding it from you and those closest to them. Talk about your own mental health; how you are feeling; what’s on your mind; what’s worrying you. It’s good to talk.

#ben2b40

Photo taken from BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05lyqp9

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