Media portrayals and reportage of mental illness, especially suicide, need to improve in order to reduce shame, stigma and discrimination of affected persons and their families.
This was the submission of Speakers at the one-day Online Training on Mental Health and Suicide reportage for Media Practitioners in commemoration of the World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) 2020, implies that if an average family has four members, then, every family has at least 1 member at risk.
The Speakers noted that glamorisation and sensitisation of suicidal behaviour, as well as use of graphic portrayals of suicide is not appropriate and should be discouraged; adding that reportage of suicide deaths should be sensitive to the emotions of relations, friends, and colleagues who may be in shock and still grieving the loss.
The speakers from the Department of Psychiatry, University College Hospital, Professor Oye Gureje, Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, Dr Bibilola Oladeji and Dr Adetoun Faloye, noted that mental disorders can occur across the lifespan from children through adulthood into old age such as with dementia; while Dr Mrs Olayinka Egbokhare from the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan and Mrs Opeyemi Lawal, founder of a not-for-profit organisation, noted that the media should be more proactive in promoting societal attitudes towards mental illness and suicide.
They all suggested that articles and reporting should be well researched and guided by best evidence; noting that language should be sensitive with the aim of empowering the citizens with a positive outlook for mental health and related issues.
Dr Abdulmalik explained that Media attention needs to place the passage of the mental health bill consistently on the front-burner until it is passed; adding that “the bill is important to ensure we have a modern law that protects the rights of individuals with mental illness and discourage abusive practices”.
The one day training held on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, was organised by the World Health Organisation, WHO Collaborating Centre of Excellence in Mental Health Neuroscience and Substance Use Disorders, University of Ibadan, and the Department of Psychiatry, University College Hospital/ College of Medicine, University of Ibadan; In partnership with The Asido Foundation and StableMums Foundation.