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Mental Illness Images in Spotlight


23 June 2015 at 11:13 am
Xavier Smerdon
Mental health charity, Sane, has begun a national survey to understand the images that are commonly used to depict mental illness by the media, the mental health sector and Australian public and whether they create a stigma around mental illness.

Xavier Smerdon | 23 June 2015 at 11:13 am


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Mental Illness Images in Spotlight
23 June 2015 at 11:13 am

Mental health charity, Sane, has begun a national survey to understand the images that are commonly used to depict mental illness by the media, the mental health sector and Australian public and whether they create a stigma around mental illness.

SANE Australia said it is asking what the public thinks is a fair and accurate portrayal of mental illness in the survey, as part of its Picture This project, using a variety of images sourced from iStock by Getty Images and asking whether or not people agree with that representation.

“Type ‘mental illness’ into an internet image search and you will see pictures of people in the dark or in a corner, holding their head in their hands. Is this how Australians want mental illness to be portrayed?,” CEO of SANE Australia, Jack Heath said.

“The language we use to discuss mental illness has evolved in recent years to reflect changing community attitudes.

“The stigma associated with mental illness stops people asking for help and is a major barrier to recovery. It’s time to have a community-wide discussion about the way mental illness is visually portrayed.”

The research follows work by Time to Change, a UK-based program challenging mental health stigma and discrimination. A survey for their Get The Picture campaign found that 58 per cent of people saw the image of someone clutching their head as stigmatising and 76 per cent said that it made others think that people with a mental illness should look depressed all of the time. More than 80 per cent said the image did not convey how it feels to have a mental illness.

SANE Australia said it will use the results from the survey to determine further action, which may include calling for new images or suggesting we re-think how we identify existing pictures.

The survey also provides participants with the opportunity to describe how they themselves picture mental illness.

iStock by Getty Images is the web’s original source for crowd sourced royalty-free stock images.

“Getty Images has generously agreed to provide the images for this survey,” Heath said.

Pro Bono Australia News has in the past sourced images of unidentified and silhouetted people to portray mental illness issues.

The survey is aimed at Australians and is accessible online until midnight Friday 24 July 2015.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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