Letter to the Editor: Stigmatising attitudes and mental illness
This letter was published on The Irish Times on 24th of November, 2017.
I was very disappointed to see the words “My girlfriend is considering going out with her ‘psycho’ ex . . . he even threatened to kill me” in a headline in the “Tell Me About It” column (Health + Family, November 21st).
The publicising of the word “psycho” as a catch-all term to sum up the abusive and threatening individual described in the column, and the linking of the word “psycho” with threats of being killed in the headline, reinforce stigmatising attitudes against those who have psychotic illnesses. This makes it harder for such individuals and their families to access healthcare and to seek treatment.
Stigmatising attitudes towards those with mental illness are very much present in Ireland today, as your September 11th editorial noted. There are clear guidelines for the media with regards to the use of such stigmatising terminology.
In not using such terms, the media can play an important role in changing public attitudes.
Dr Eric Kelleher,
Mercy University Hospital,