NHS England has welcomed better portrayals of mental health in prime time TV storylines after a report showed the subject being covered more authentically and more often.
The report ‘Making a drama out of a crisis’ was launched by Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
It comes as Coronation Street’s Steve McDonald comes to terms with being diagnosed with depression later this month.
Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for people with long term conditions, said: “It’s great to see these issues being highlighted on prime time television.
“We want to reduce the stigma around mental ill health and encourage people to seek help as soon as they can. Featuring these issues in an authentic way can help to drive these messages home.”
Time to Change worked with the Glasgow Media Group who monitored TV drama series over a three month period from big budget box sets to homegrown soaps.
They found that mental health is being covered more frequently compared to a previous study in 2010 with storylines in soaps such as EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Home and Away through to dramas including My mad fat diary, Orange is the new black and Homeland.
Evidence from the report shows 50 per cent positive references to how mental health issues are portrayed in television dramas in 2014, compared to 41 per cent in 2010.
In addition, it found that more storylines have attempted to depict mental health problems more accurately and fewer characters with a mental illness are portrayed as violent.
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “The media have the ability to shape and form public opinion so it’s important that some of the country’s best loved soaps and drama series are taking on mental health storylines, doing them accurately, not fuelling stigma and helping improve understanding.
“The media advisory service we offer at Time to Change has already worked on over 50 television and radio scripts including EastEnders, Holby City and more recently Coronation Street. We encourage all writers to make use of this service. Through their work, writers have the ability to breakdown stigma and discrimination through exploring issues and bringing them right into the nation’s living rooms.”
NHS England has an extensive programme of work aimed at improving services and waiting times for mental health patients.
Dr McShane added: “We must make sure patients get the right care as close to home as possible. We are supporting CCGs to deliver high quality care and parity of esteem for mental health services – both of which are a priority for NHS England.
“In eighteen months we have taken action to deliver parity including creating choice, better physical health care for people with serious mental illness, better crisis care, better information and, with Monitor are consulting on new payment systems. We are also delivering improvements in psychological care that are gathering international attention because we are measuring outcomes systematically – a world first.”
See the full ‘Making a drama out of a crisis’ report at www.time-to-change.org.uk