If you are thinking of writing an article on mental health and illness, why not use our handy guide to some of the most popular and predominate images of this in the media- the ones that are the symbolic and metaphorical equivalent of a brick over the head in their subtlety, bearing little accuracy to the lived experience of people.
Clearly media folk are super important and very busy so we’ve decided to save you having to think at all about how you depict mental illness and mental health problems. So let us help you with those important editorial decisions.
The first one is the most critical. It is vital that all images of people with mental illness convey the levels of their despair in the most terribly obvious manner and the easiest way to do this is by use of the #HeadClutch. The only decision you need to make is about how many hands the person uses to clutch their face-
(1) Is it a one hand kind of article:
(2)or a double hander?
Once you have made this decision, we need to consider the surroundings and remember that people with mental health problems-
(3) appear to spend a lot of time in alleyways.
(4) Or on the floor in the dark.
(5) They also appear to like to sit on the side of an unmade bed. Never a made one.
(6) If they are male and have ever had a mental health problem then they will invariably be unshaven.
(7) And spend a lot of time clutching their heads on a park bench.
(8) If it is raining or too cold outside, then the alternative is the corner of a room.
(9) Or on the floor by open doorways with light streaming out of them. To convey, you know, a light at the end of the tunnel in an artistic manner. See too- the Venetian blind backdrop as that’s very popular, especially with picture editors who grew up listening to Japan in the 80’s.
(10) Or maybe they prefer to spend time in weird never ending corridors?
(11) Which is enough to turn anybody to drink.
(12) When there is light in the world of mental health imagery, it is often a light not seen in nature. We like this pink shade to ring in the changes.
(13) And when things get really bad, there’s no longer any need to even see their face. And a bit of fog never did any harm- go that pathetic fallacy!
(14) Although sometimes articles are illustrated by photos of people with mental health issues doing extra weird things like playing ‘Ring a Roses’ the wrong way around..This symbolises hope apparently.
The MOST important thing you need to remember though is the #HeadClutch because without it, how will any of your readers know that the article is about mental health problems?
Every single one of these images was taken from an article in the mainstream press about mental illness or how to regain mental health. Google those terms and see what images come up.
Here are some other images of people you could use who may or may not have mental health problems, the point being it is not a fixed state or something that necessarily shows-
(1) People with other people. Talking.
(2) Or just people.
(3) Or finding comfort in the coping strategies they have developed to manage their symptoms.
(4) or follow the example of the IAINews and use images like this to illustrate the themes of your piece on the future of psychiatry:
(5) Or get really creative and use photos showing groups of four people to illustrate the one in four stat that any one of them could have a mental health problem. Here’s four people doing regular stuff. Like eating and drinking.
(6) Or images that show just how strong people with mental health problems can be and how strong they HAVE to be to cope with all the stereotypical crap in the media.
So- editors, photo editors, journalists and copy writers….Are you going to settle for one of these same old stereotypes or maybe, just maybe, you might decide to be a little more careful and creative with the images you choose to portray mental illness in your next copy?