I am writing to you to outline my concerns at a recent tweet that was published by your twitter page. In the tweet you posted a big photo of “The Yorkshire Ripper” with the caption “The Yorkshire Ripper has been moved from hospital to prison. What’s it like to live with a serious mental illness?”. As a media outlet you have immense power to influence and challenge public perceptions and stereotypes, your tagline is “Leading Britain’s Conversation”. I have to ask what does it say about the leadership you are providing when you are prepared to publish something so stigmatising?
As I am sure you will be aware, having a serious mental illness and being a serial killer are not mutually exclusive, statistically people with mental health conditions are more likely to be a danger to themselves as opposed to anyone else. Assuming the Yorkshire Ripper was black, would it be appropriate to post “The Yorkshire Ripper has been moved from hospital to prison. What is it like to be black?” or maybe he was gay, would it be appropriate to post “The Yorkshire Ripper has been moved from hospital to prison. What is it like to be gay?” or even if he had cancer, would it be appropriate “The Yorkshire Ripper has been moved from hospital to prison. What’s it like to have cancer?”
Whilst I am not in favour of censorship and will defend free speech to the hilt, I feel such a major broadcaster as LBC has a responsibility to lead the conversation in a mature and sensible manner that encourages debate as opposed to fuelling stigma. The Yorkshire Rippers mental health is no more or less relevant to his crimes than his physical health, and it is fair to lead a conversation around the health of someone like The Yorkshire Ripper however what is not fair is to carelessly link mental illness and The Yorkshire Ripper in the way that you did.
People with mental health conditions are routinely stigmatised in this country, it is common knowledge that many employers will not employ someone with a mental health condition, people with serious mental illness are more likely to die younger and only 66% of the country would be willing to live with someone with a mental health condition and 20% would not even be willing to live nearby someone with a mental health condition. Having a mental health condition puts you at a real disadvantage in the UK and instead of highlighting that you have fuelled the fire of stigma.
My concluding thoughts are that you should reflect on how you as a broadcaster cover mental health, lead Britain’s conversation to make a positive change as opposed to re-affirming out of date and warped beliefs. For my part I would be more than happy to offer your staff free mental health awareness training should you feel it is appropriate.
I look forward to your response