Mind releases advice for soaps and dramas tackling mental health stories
Research shows that one in four viewers realised they were experiencing a mental health problem after seeing a storyline on television.
Leading mental health charity Mind has issued its first set of media guidelines – including advice for soaps and TV dramas tackling mental health storylines.
The new guidance comes in light of research commissioned by Mind and ITV that shows that one in four viewers had realised they were experiencing a mental health problem after seeing a storyline exploring the subject on television.
The research also highlighted that one in five people (18 per cent) had felt encouraged to seek help from a medical professional after watching a character experience a mental health problem, while one in three (34 per cent) had been inspired to start a conversation with friends, family, and colleagues.
According to Mind, the new guidelines include "top tips on how to create responsible and compelling fictional depictions" in order to make sure "characters’ experiences of mental health problems are as true to life as possible".
This is especially vital given that one in five people still think storylines do not accurately represent people with mental health problems, while one in 10 who have seen an inaccurate storyline felt more inclined to hide their existing mental health problems, the research continues.
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The top tips in Mind's guidelines include an appeal to remain true to character, to ensure consistent symptoms over time, and to avoid myths and stereotypes around violence.
It also urges TV writers to create well-rounded characters and to offer a road to recovery, rather than only portraying mental health problems as "being a hopeless affliction where treatment is pointless and the outlook is bleak".
Alex Bushill, head of media and PR at Mind, said: "It has never been more important for broadcasters to create accurate, sensitive storylines about mental health.
"Lockdowns and restrictions meant people started watching more TV than ever, and a huge number of us are seeing soaps and dramas featuring mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. These stories help people recognise when they might be experiencing a mental health problem themselves and prompt them to seek help."
He added: "It’s clear from this research that mental health storylines are popular, and broadcasters continue to be committed to making them. We now need to see more airtime given to conditions such as schizophrenia, psychosis and post-natal depression which are still stigmatised and poorly understood.”