Comparative Essay

In this essay, I will be discussing the contrast between two articles, written by two separate newspapers. The subject of both articles is centred around mental health, however both cover the subject in a different light.

The first paper is a tabloid, known as ‘The Sun’. The article in particular that I have chosen is titled ‘1200 killed by mental patients’. In this article, the writer claims that The Sun has gone into investigation and subsequently stumbled upon news that roughly 1200 people have been killed by mental health patients in the last decade, illustrating a flaw in the care system. Initially, my first thoughts are that the title and opening paragraph create a stigma towards mental health patients. This could be potentially harmful, by helping to create a false stereotype for those with mental health disorders.

The figure ‘1200’ in the title is quite misleading, as only later in the article is it specified that the figure is spread over the last decade. In fact, from a quick google search, I found out that over the years, homicides committed by mental health patients have drastically decreased. There were 33 homicides committed by mental health patients in England in 2010 – the lowest figure since data collection began in 1997. The article never addresses this, which will leave the audience with a misguided understanding of the facts and figures they are presented with. Resulting in an unnecessary negative outlook on mental health patients and the care system trying to help them.

The other paper I decided to review is ‘The Times’ and their article titled ‘Mental Health Matters’. This title is leaps and bounds more positive than the other. It’s short, puts mental health in a positive light and doesn’t use misleading figures to draw in the audience. This article summarises government and NHS plans to fund and help mental health care more by the year 2020 but the trials and tribulations that come with this. The facts and figures used later in the article are presented accurately and do not put mental health patients in a negative light. For example, this fact ‘In 2014, nearly 16,000 teenage girls were hospitalised for self-harm.’ was used in order to clarify the severity of the situation in the hope that people will sympathise.

The majority of The Sun’s article is spent listing victims of a mental health patient homicide. Within these accounts, The Sun fails to present figures that show those suffering from mental illness are up to ten times more likely to be the victim of a crime than the average person. As a result of this, the audience of The Sun’s article will begin to form an inaccurate stereotype of mental health patients and begin to see them as criminals. When on the contrary, people with mental health patients are more likely to be victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators. Not only this, but journalist Alastair Campbell highlights a very interesting point by stating that constant media linkage of violence and mental illness leads to violence against the mentally ill rather than by them.

On the other hand, The Times shows understanding for mental health patients. They even have their own campaign called ‘Time To Mind’ which according to ‘Youngminds’ (an online mental health organisation) ‘Expertly highlights the tremendous challenges children, young people and their families face in getting the care and support they need’.

The ‘Time To Mind’ campaign aids those with a lack 0f understanding for mental health and the system that provides help for those with mental health issues. For example, if a parent had a child with depression but found it hard to understand what they’re going through and how to help, and then they could look on ‘Time To Mind’ and read up about it. The campaign also encourages people to spread awareness and donate money to the cause, as mental health is severely under funded.

The language is noticeably different in both articles. The Sun tends to use dramatic words that exacerbate a situation. The first instance of this comes from the first sentence, in which The Sun describes the situation as a ‘crisis’ despite research proving that the situation has rapidly improved over the years. The Times tends to use less dramatic words and seems to approach the subject they’re writing about in a calm manner. In The Times’ article, they inform the audience that clinical commissioning groups were supposed to be increasing the budget on mental health but instead are doing the opposite. The article describes this situation as ‘dismaying’, which allows the audience to understand the negative connotations being communicated, without the exaggeration.

Unfortunately, this problem stems from the phrase ‘Bad news is good news’. Audiences tend to be more interested in the negative news articles, but if there’s nothing negative to write about, then journalists will often use language to manipulate an audience into believing there are issues where there are not. Luckily, The Times seems to realise the impact they can have on the views of their audience and direct their articles towards an informative approach.

In conclusion, The Times newspaper tackled the subject of mental health in a mature and sensible manner. Whilst unfortunately, The Sun did not. Despite my bias, The Sun’s article was not completely in the mud. They did use many factually correct figures and even had an entire segment written by the chief executive of mind, one of the leading mental health charities. However, due to the language used, the article puts mental health patients in a negative light.




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