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The Media's Coverage Of The Germanwings Crash Has Been Condemned By Mental Health Charities

They weren't that happy about some of the reporting on Zayn Malik, either.

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Leading British mental health charities have criticised the media coverage of the Germanwings crash.

Mind, Time to Change, and Rethink Mental Health have described some newspaper headlines about the disaster as "simplistic", saying that they risk "adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems".

In particular, the treatment of the Germanwings co-pilot's history of depression contradicts the charities' reporting guidelines.

Yes please do stigmatise people with depression, why not, that seems really helpful #tomorrowspaperstoday

The charities said in a statement: "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."

For example, the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change suggests that media should not "speculate about someone's mental health being a factor in the story unless you know this to be 100% true".

@thetimes Lots of people suffer from depression but don't go murdering innocent people. Headline is kind of eh.

The statement continued: "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."

Time to Change's guidelines suggest including contextualising facts to make it clear that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are of no danger to anyone, and that they are in fact more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.

The Sun. Not exactly helping #EndTheStigma #EndStigma #depression #mentalhealth #mhealth #mh

The charities concluded: "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."

Time to Change recommends avoiding terms such as "mad", "unhinged", "maniac", or "loonie", and suggests using "a person with a mental health problem" instead.

The reporting of fans' reaction to Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction was also called into question.

One newspaper tweeted out its report on fans self-harming using a particularly graphic image. The tweet has now been deleted.


.@thetimes This is the OPPOSITE of what responsible reporting about self harm looks like.

To make matters worse, it has also been suggested that the #Cut4Zayn movement was a hoax started by users of the 4chan message board.

Jenni Regan of Mind told BuzzFeed News that "we would definitely recommend that the media avoid graphic images as we know they have the potential to be triggering and harmful. We know that specific images can also lead to copycat behaviour."

BuzzFeed News' policy, as stated in our standards guide is to leave the viewing of such images to its users' discretion, as with the image above.

For those interested in the topic, the Samaritans have a list of guidelines for the reporting of suicide. The mental health charity Mind has a page of useful links for how to talk about mental illness. And the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change offers this set of reporting guidelines, and also this discussion of how to use images to illustrate stories about mental health.

Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Chivers at

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