The Sun apologise for “mental patient” slur! Hell must have frozen over!

In Britain we have a daily newspaper called The Sun.  It’s a tabloid, and what we in Britain call a “red top”.  Red tops tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  Every day, page 3 is dominated by a photo of a “page 3 girl”, who will be wearing hardly anything at all and will be exposing her (usually large) boobs.  Bare boobs in a familynewspaper?  Yes, I know, but don’t blame me – I didn’t invent the rules.

On 7 October, the Sun printed a sensationalised story “1,200 killed by mental patients”.   This greatly offended people with mental illnesses, their families, and just about everyone else.  The paper was bombarded with complaints and an online petition on Change.org.

Well, lots of people signed the petition (82,000 according to Rhiannon, a psychology teacher with a family that has a history of mental health illness and who started the petition at Change.org.

She wrote:

Brilliant news! Following public outcry and concern from mental health organisations, today The Sun newspaper printed a correction to their offensive front page headline which read “1,200 killed by mental patients”.

As a psychology teacher with a family that has a history of mental health illness, I was shocked and appalled at The Sun’s coverage of such a sensitive issue.

To my amazement, so were over 82,000 of you! The petition grew stronger and stronger, calling for a correction and donation to a mental health charity.

Last week mental health charities Rethink and Mind met with The Sun to discuss their coverage of mental health issues and responsible journalism. And today they have printed this correction

It’s important that this correction doesn’t go unnoticed. Time and again people with mental health issues are stigmatised in the media. It’s vital that when corrections are made, they are made publicly to end the stigma. 

The Sun’s correction reads as follows:

Clarifications and Corrections.

Further to our article “1,200 killed by mental patients” (Oct 7), we would like to make clear that the 1,200 figure related broadly to victims of homicide by people with mental illness.  This encompassed both those who were being actively treated at the time of the offence and those who were subsequently judged to have symptons of mental illness.

The Sun realises that the vast majority of people with mental health problems pose no threat to anybody and are much more likely to take their own life or self-harm  than be a risk to others.  Since our article we have been in communication with charities such as Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and support their Time to Change initiative.  We will continue campaigning to improve treatment of mental health in the UK.

Not exactly the apology that Change.org have hyped it up to be;  but, as Rhiannon wrote in her recent email, “It’s important that this correction doesn’t go unnoticed. Time and again people with mental health issues are stigmatised in the media. It’s vital that when corrections are made, they are made publicly to end the stigma.”

So yes, it’s an apology, especially when you take into account the fact that it came from the Sun.  Let’s see if their general practices change too.

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