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‘Screw The Stigma’ Says Mental Illness Media Award


“Screw the stigma. I was mentally ill,” said award recipient Alex Spence. “If invading my own privacy is the price for demystifying this (alarmingly common) illness, so be it. I’d do it again.”

Alex Spence took top honours at the ‘Like Minds’ Media Awards, part of the Media Peace Awards held in Auckland City on Friday night. The ‘Like Minds’ Award, part of a campaign of the same name to destigmatise mental illness which this year produced television commercials featuring famous New Zealanders.

Spence’s entry - ‘Daylight Fading’, published in Metro magazine earlier this year – was described by judges as “deeply personal, honest and powerful”. The story prompted calls to talkback, a discussion in newspapers and a rush of calls to both Spence (now at North and South) and Metro.

The role of the media in challenging or perpetuating stereotypes is of critical importance, says Warren Lindberg, Like Minds project manager.

"In developing our television ads earlier this year we found that people generally are more accepting of mental illness than the media would suggest. But people do find mental illness 'scary', and the media's focus on exceptional tragedies, rather than triumphs, contributes to that," he says.The ‘Like Minds’ Media Awards celebrate the media's contribution to better public understanding of the complexity of mental illness.

Lindberg says he has already noticed a change in mental illness reporting since the advertising campaign commenced. “This year, two of the winners are highly-regarded journalists who happen to have personal experience of mental illness. The winning entries were well-researched, well-written and devoid of sensationalism – and they also allowed people with experience of mental illness to speak for themselves.”

The other noticeable change Lindberg sees in the reporting of mental illness is the move from stories written predominantly by court or police reporters to other facets of news, feature and lifestyle reporting, from sport to entertainment and fashion.

“Hopefully, as the public gain more knowledge and lose their fears, and see more and people who openly and successfully manage their illnesses, mental illness will be seen and reported no differently from any other aspect of a person’s life – be it physical illness, the challenge of child-rearing, the experience of being an immigrant or being a public figure.”

Other winners were:
Newspaper: Kathryn McNeil, The Press
Television: Chris Wright, TVNZ
Radio: Mike Gourley, Radio New Zealand
Maori Media: Kay Robin, Te Reo Irirangi o Turanganui A Kiwa

The Media Peace Awards are an annual event sponsored by the Peace Foundation. The awards aim to promote the values of peace and conflict resolution. This is the second year the ‘Like Minds’ Media Awards have featured.

For more information on the Like Minds Media Awards, contact:
Warren Lindberg, Like Minds project manager, Health Funding Authority, :09-416 9042 025-275 3762 or
Teresa Pomeroy, Huia Communications, Tel: 04-473 9262 021-406 027

For information on the Media Peace Awards, contact:
Marion Hancock, Peace Foundation, 09-373 2379

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