Challenging Stigma in the Press.

The media has an influential role to play when it comes to shaping the public’s opinion and knowledge of mental ill-health. Many journalists are keen to make sure that their stories are fair and balanced, but sometimes things go wrong.

It is important that, when something appears that is stigmatising or imbalanced in the press or any medium, it is challenged.

The more individual people that raise the issue with a publication the more power we have. It is only by challenging incidents that we can improve media reporting.


How to complain

Here are some basic guidelines to help you complain if you see something that should be challenged:

  • Respond to the article the day that you see it – responding promptly is much more effective and the publication is more likely to take notice.   Use our list of Media Contacts in Scotland.
  • Refer to the article headline and the date of publication so it is clear what article it is you are referring to.
  • Mark clearly if your letter is for publication or not
  • In your letter/email explain clearly why the article is stigmatising/offensive
  • Copy ‘see me’ in to the response if possible, or complete the Stigma Stop Watch Form
  • If possible quote statistics and facts from our Fact sheets or use information from our Media Guidelines on good media reporting for suicide and mental ill-health.

Tell us about it too!  Email us here to let us know you’ve complained and about any replies you get.


Note on broadcast media: 
‘see me’ monitors all the press everyday and we are looking to expand our monitoring to include broadcast media too.  At the moment, if you want us to complain about a programme on the TV or radio, we are dependent on being able to access online versions/downloads, and not all are available in this way.

We can’t complain about something we haven’t seen or heard ourselves so our advice is always to complain yourself first; and tell ‘see me’ about it afterwards.


Here are few examples of responses to the media.

Dear Editor

Your story regarding the sentencing of Stephen Muirhead was in the worst traditions of media reporting on mental health problems.   Words like, “crazed” and “maniac” are outdated, reflect badly on your newspaper and contribute to the stigma experienced by the one in four Scots who experience a mental health problem – most of whom will never commit any crime

Yours faithfully

‘see me’ campaign


Dear Sir,

I am writing on behalf of ‘see me’, Scotland’s National anti-stigma campaign for mental ill-health regarding an article that appeared in the 27 May-2nd June Edition of ‘Love-it’ magazine titled ‘Kids who cut to be trendy’.

I appreciate the aim of the article is to raising awareness and highlight the issues surrounding self-harm, however, referring to self-harm as a ‘trend’ is offensive to those who experience it as a coping mechanism, or to combat feelings of numbness to the world around them.

The accompanying photography is sensationalised and highly inappropriate for such a sensitive subject – especially as we are talking about an issue which particularly affects impressionable young girls

In the future I would recommend that you use more suitable images to accompany articles relating to mental health and we are only too happy to offer guidance about issues like these.

You may also wish to refer to the media guidelines which have been written by the NUJ in collaboration with the National Programme for Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing to support journalists in the reporting of mental health and suicide.  These are available on the ‘see me’ website.

I have also attached the ‘see me’ factsheet on self-harm for your reference.

If you need anything else please do not hesitate to give me a call.

Kind Regards

‘see me’
1/3 Great Michael House
14 Links Place

0131 554 0218


Dear Editor

Your coverage of mental health problems and patients in The State Hospital (16/10/07, p.15) is unnecessarily scaremongering. The articles seriously underplay the fact that no patient is allowed to move out of a high security setting without having undergone rigorous risk assessment. People with serious mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crime than commit a crime.  On the extremely rare occasions when someone with a diagnosis of mental illness does become violent, sensationalised coverage leads the public to associate everyone with mental health problems with extreme and uncontrolled dangerousness.

Yours faithfully

‘see me’ campaign