Media, if you are going to be covering a story that deals with mental health you should do the following (from video):
- Stick to the facts. DO NOT SPECULATE about someone’s mental health being a factor in what you’re reporting unless it’s true.
- Interview someone with a mental health issues to provide a realistic perspective.
- Include contextualizing facts (ie: include that homicides involving people with mental health issues are rare and that they are more likely to be victims).
- Ask a professional. They can tell you more.
- Avoid stereotypes, cliches and sensationalism.
- Mind your language. Do not misuse a diagnosis.
See my “Personal Media” category for pieces I have been involved in.
I am currently reading a great memoir by Canadian journalist, Jan Wong entitled, “Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Redemption, Recovery and, Yes, Happiness”.
Here’s a synopsis from www.janwong.ca: For twenty years, Jan Wong had been one of the Globe and Mail’s best-known reporters. Then one day she turned in a story that set off a firestorm of controversy, including death threats, a unanimous denunciation by Parliament and a rebuke by her own newspaper. For the first time in her professional life, Wong fell into a severe clinical depression. Yet she resisted the diagnosis, refusing to believe she had a mental illness. As it turned out, so did her company and insurer. With wit, grace and insight, Wong tells the harrowing tale of her struggle with workplace-caused depression, and of her eventual emergence … Out of the Blue.
I am enjoying this book a lot! Wong is a great story teller and has led a very interesting life as a reporter that I’m sure her analysis of her stories alone could fill an amazing book!
What is making me a little uncomfortable (enough to write about it) is I feel Wong is not linking her experience of depression with the horrible situation that happened to her at the Globe and Mail. This is completely my interpretation so far and I of course cannot speak to any of Wong’s experiences (which she acknowledged in the preface of her book).
Here’s some background so I can start making sense:
Jan Wong wrote an article about a 2006 shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec. The Globe and Mail wanted an analysis as well as a “tick tock” (timeline of events) approach to this article. Wong noticed that all 3 of Canada’s campus shootings (others including, École Polytechnique, 1989, and Concordia University, 1992) were not only in Quebec, and more specifically Montreal (the province’s largest city), but were also committed by young men of immigrant background. Wong decided her analysis would look at pure laine (a French term meaning “pure wool” but used as slang in Quebec to talk about their pure French ancestry), immigration and alienation.
(P.S. Gill and Lépine committed suicide after their rampages)
Wong’s article touched on a lot of hot issues that, to my knowledge, Quebec is still involved in today. Quebec is predominantly French speaking and has always had severe nationalism and even has a separatist party (currently the head of their provincial government but by a minority) and has had two (I think) referendums to separate from Canada.
Wong mentioned that Quebec has the highest suicide rate and the highest outflow of immigrants in all of Canada. She attributes this, and the shootings, to the pure laine idea that is embedded in much of the province. While I can’t spend all day finding the comments, in Out of the Blue Wong mentions many of the comments made by Quebec political figures in chapter 3 which can serve to show how alienation of the immigrant/ethnic populations is occurring.
Wong’s own family has been in Quebec for over 100 years but she was still told that she was an “immigrant” and told to “go back to her country of origin”. She, as well as her parents and grand parents are French Canadian born but of Chinese decent because her ancestors came over to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway beginning in 1881.
The first moment I began to feel like Wong was not making a good link was when she first broke down about the horrible backlash. She said that people with depression have an inflated sense of guilt combined with narcissism which allows them to make everything their fault which is why she was blaming herself. I understand this, and I experience this daily, but I feel like in this case her feelings that she had caused her family pain were entirely warranted! Quebecers were threatening to boycott her Father’s restaurant and were spreading racist rumors that he severed rats (and other things) all because of an article she wrote! I feel that completely makes her “this is all my fault” completely valid!
Her depression was 100% caused by the racist and hateful backlash she received from Quebec and even Canada’s federal government, by the lack of support from the Globe and Mail and, I would not be surprised, having her beliefs shaken that journalists are supported by their papers.
I AM NOT TRYING TO PAINT QUEBEC IN A NEGATIVE LIGHT! I am reporting the facts from the book, from the media and my own knowledge. I am of French decent (although Ontario not Quebec), have family that lives in Quebec, I have visited Quebec and may be going there again after Christmas. Quebec is beautiful, rich in culture and essentially everyone you meet is so happy to see you! (Quebec would be like the USA in the sense the people who have the platform are sometimes the people that makes them look really bad!) The pride Quebec has I think is something all provinces should have because Canada as a whole could use a little more pride!
I highly recommend you pick up Out of the Blue! It’s a story I’m sure many of us can relate to in many ways!
I saw this article yesterday on my Facebook feed and was bothered by the title and continued to be bother by the article and then enraged by the reader comments.
I’m very tired of seeing articles such as this one! Especially when the odd time of year (you know for those awareness weeks) you get articles talking about mental health stigma and what we can do about it and ESPECIALLY when I was apart of one!
I decided to write an email to the editor.