Today’s headlines show just how much work is still to do on mental health stigma

All of us have been moved by the Germanwings plane crash, feeling for those who have lost loved ones or colleagues. The circumstances of the crash, caused by what seems to be a deliberate act by the co-pilot, has provoked much comment in the press, much of it deeply irresponsible. Headlines have screamed about Andreas Lubitz’s mental health demanding to know why he was allowed to fly.

Lurid headlines, written by sub-editors who clearly have no clue about mental health, do not help to either tackle the stigma faced by people with mental ill health or encourage those who suffer to seek help. The more open we can be about mental health, the more we understand. That leads to a more comfortable and sympathetic world for those who are suffering.

It’s worth reading this statement from Mind, which acts the media to report the issue responsibly:

The terrible loss of life in the Germanwings plane crash is tragic, and we send our deepest sympathies to the families. Whilst the full facts are still emerging, there has been widespread media reporting speculating about the link with the pilot’s history of depression, which has been overly simplistic.

Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.

Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.

At the time of writing, I am not aware of any statements from Liberal Democrat ministers or the Liberal Democrat Mental Health Association. I will update with any as I become aware of them.

If you are suffering from Depression or any other illness, the very last thing you need is to see that condition misrepresented in an ignorant and insensitive manner. Sadly, ignorant and insensitive is what our tabloid press do best. Perhaps this is a test for the new industry self regulator, IPSO.You may wish to complain about the coverage of this issue.  If they don’t deal appropriately with your complaint, then Hacked Off want to know about it through their IPSOwatch site. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings