News Release

REF NO.: 63

SUBJECT: Memorial Presents forum to explore media coverage of mental health issues

DATE: November 2, 2011

            The Harris Centre invites all members of the public to How the Media Deal with Mental Illness, a free Memorial Presents public policy event, Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at Innovation Hall in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation (formerly the Inco Innovation Centre).
            The media has the power to positively shape society’s understanding of mental health issues, but is the image presented always correct? Mental illness is difficult to understand and stories related to mental illness have the potential to spread misinformation, especially when crime is involved.
            Join the panel, moderated by frequent commentator on media issues, Dr. Noreen Golfman, as it tries to make sense of the issues surrounding the way mental illness is portrayed in the media. The panel will include:
  • Mark Gruchy, St. John’s-based lawyer and president of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Newfoundland and Labrador chapter 
  •  Paula Corcoran, provincial peer support co-ordinator with the Consumers Health Awareness Network Newfoundland and Labrador (CHANNAL)
  • Sgt. Boyd Merrill, media relations, “B” Division, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

            Following the panel presentation, the audience will be invited to participate in a Q&A session.
           George Skinner, executive director of the Canadian Association of Mental Health, Newfoundland and Labrador, is concerned by the impact that misinformed or prejudiced reporting can have on the willingness of an individual with mental illness to seek help.
           “The fact is that stigma really impairs people’s ability to come forward for treatment. I work with people everyday who can disclose how they feel or what they think because of the societal stigma. To me, it’s a major barrier.”
It’s a fear that Dr. Golfman understands. While she doesn’t believe that media stories are purposely crafted to hurt, she does agree that the media play a role in strengthening persistent negative myths about mental illness. 
           “Unintentionally, perhaps, media coverage of criminal or violent acts helps reinforce myths about mental illness,” she said. “News stories, in particular, tend to put the spotlight on mental illness, sensationalizing without context or even purpose. You just have to think about the history of horror films to realize how mental illness might be considered in the popular imagination.”
           The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. Those unable to attend in person are encouraged to view the live webcast at www.mun.ca/harriscentre.  


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