As a founding director of the Hippocratic Post I was delighted to be a part last week of our Awards for Student Medical Journalism at City University, London. I sponsored the Award for journalism covering mental health issues, and how they are being addressed. How the media report on the different topics our students choose to write about is so important in making sure we understand latest developments, and how we can best help those suffering from any form of mental illness. I was delighted to award the prize to Flora Carr, who wrote about the stigma of eating disorders in the orthodox Jewish community.
And I have my own personal reasons for wanting to support topics about mental health.
My late brother Roger, two years older than me, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, diagnosed in his early 20s. This was in the early 1960s when there were no such things as help lines for patient and their families. He lived a tormented life and died of a stroke in his 40s. I am now so pleased that today I am a patron of the mental health charity SANE with its invaluable out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. I am also a patron of TOP UK – Triumph Over Phobia – which runs weekly groups around the country for those suffering from any kind of phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder, ocd. These groups are run by ex-sufferers and provide a lifeline for those who need to share their experiences and have people to talk to who understand what they are going through.
The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, with its Heads Together campaign to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing has been extremely valuable. The recent outspoken comments of Prince William and Prince Harry about their own feelings after the sudden death of their mother, Princess Diana, has helped greatly in reducing the stigma of mental health. At last, it seems to me, mental health is getting the attention it deserves.
How the media cover such issues is vital and I was very pleased to see the high standard of the entries we received. I was a judge together with Professor Susanne Franks, Head of the Department of Journalism at City, University of London and the distinguished GP Clare Gerada, who has particular interests in mental health and substance misuse.
I am pleased that some of the entries will soon be blogs on our site for you to have a look at. The Awards were a moving experience, and it’s good to know that young journalists are not only looking at these issues but willing to blog about them too.