Sensationalizing this tragic news story about Andreas Lubitz crashing the Germanwings jetliner into the Alps and saying things like “Crazed rookie pilot murdered 149, Madman in the Cockpit.” as The Sun (United Kingdom) did when really nothing is known about the reason the pilot did this is further stigmatizing mental illness. Stigma stops mentally ill people from reaching out for the help they desperately need. Perhaps, if Lubitz did have problems with mental illness, stigma is the exact thing that stopped him from getting help! So why? Why print sensational and irresponsible headlines about this event, why create more stigma? Why say things that have no basis in fact? Why not be responsible and present the facts as they unfold? If it is found out that it was mental illness that caused the pilot to commit this awful act, then by all means say it was. But until then, don’t make up headlines out of incomplete data. Yes I know headlines sell newspapers, but sensationalizing and making up stories when all the information is not known, well, that’s just bad journalism.
Here’s a wonderful list of things to do and don’t do from the Huff Post article (link above):
“Here are some specific do’s and don’t’s:
- Share your experience with mental disorder. Your story can convey to others that having a mental disorder is nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Help people with mental disorder reenter society. Support their efforts to obtain housing and jobs.
- Watch the language you use:
- don’t use generic labels: “retarded,” “our mentally ill”
- don’t use psychiatric diagnoses as metaphors: “schizophrenic situation”
- don’t use offensive words: “psycho,” “loony,” “crazy,” “wacko,” “slow,” “crackpot”
- don’t refer to a person as a diagnosis: “he’s bipolar,” instead say, “he has bipolar disorder”
- Document stigma in the media whenever possible
- The media also offers our best hope for eradicating stigma because of its power to educate and influence public opinion, so remember to thank journalists when they get it right.
- Send letters, make phone calls, or e-mail the offending parties
- Ask your local, regional, and national leaders to take a stand
- Support efforts to actively expose stigma in the media
- Educate yourself – the elimination of stigma begins with you
- Volunteer, join an anti-stigma campaign”
These are helpful, what The Sun is doing is not!