My open letter to the local newspaper (Essex Echo) after they published an article titled “Schizophrenics Attack on Police”.
Dear Essex Echo
I am writing to you regarding the report titled “Schizophrenics Attack on Police” that appeared in the Basildon edition of Tuesday 13th of Octobers Echo. Whilst I appreciate that as a local paper, you have a duty to report the news, I feel as though the coverage of this story was both stigmatising and unbalanced.
As I am sure you are aware, people with a mental health conditions (including schizophrenia) are more likely to cause harm to themselves more than anything else despite a public perception to the contrary. Associating schizophrenia with violence against others adds fuel to the fire of stigma, people with mental health conditions are more likely to die younger and have both employment and educational opportunities limited.
I hope the question is asked as to what benefit the reader has being made aware of the man’s health condition. If the man was not in an acute episode at the time then why is it relevant? If the man had cancer would you publish a story saying “cancer patient attacks police” or if the man was black would you report “black man attacks police” how about if he was gay, would you report “gay attacks police”? If the man was in an acute episode at the time then the question needs to be asked why he was being locked in a police cell instead of receiving specialist support from mental health services.
Police officers are often assaulted, it is not acceptable and the perpetrators should be exposed and justice allowed to take its course. I do wonder however if this story would have been published at all if the man did not have a health condition, people perpetrate assaults all the time, and most of these people do not have a health condition.
My hope is that you reflect on the points I raise in this letter and respond to them in kind, I also hope that in future you will report stories such as the ones mentioned in a less stigmatising, more balanced manner. As a newspaper you have the power to fight against mental health stigma and I sincerely hope you use that power to do so.