Bill ‘plays to public fears’, minister told

Health minister Rosie Winterton was forced to defend the draft Mental Health Bill after being told at a meeting on discriminatory media coverage of mental health issues that the planned laws Rosie Wintertonwould only make matters worse.

The government’s Shift campaign to tackle the stigma faced by people with mental health problems would be undermined by the bill’s emphasis on compulsory treatment, campaigners told the minister this week.

Graham Thornicroft, from the Institute of Psychiatry, said most government policy was heading towards more inclusion but the bill’s focus on public safety played up to fears about mental health.

Winterton said compulsory treatment in the community, which the bill seeks to extend, would allow people to retain relationships with their family. She accused the media of not engaging in a real debate about the bill. A report launched at the event found that coverage of common mental health problems was balanced but stories about more severe conditions continued to be stigmatising.

It said the media tended to focus on rare incidents of violence, with stories constructed from a concern for “public safety” rather than the welfare of the person with a mental health problem.

Mind Over Matter: Media Reporting of Mental Health from

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