The latest theme for Time To Change StoryCamp 2020 is mental health and the media and I thought it might be a good opportunity to talk about my own experiences with the topic, the positives and negatives I’ve discovered, and my advice on dealing with those negatives of the media…
My first memory of the media
I guess that my first real recollection of the media and the impact it could have on the world was when my cartoons were paused to break the news of the death of Princess Diana in 1997 – when I was just six years old! I guess this meant that the first thing I learnt was that horrific stories could put a stop to fun and laughter. They could over-rule them, take priority and become the focus for everyone. I also saw how media can influence your feelings in projecting emotions appropriate to the content. Finally, with the circumstances of the Princess’s death being around photographers chasing her car (I realise this is debateable!) I saw the impact the media can have on a more practical level and that once you’re in the ‘spotlight’ you can almost completely lose any sense of privacy.
The lack of content on some topics
My next thoughts on the media have come through the abuse I experienced when I was 15. In 2006, when the abuse started, I felt that there weren’t a whole lot of stories in the media about abuse and rape. The lack of this content meant that the only reason I suspected what was happening to me was wrong was because it hurt so much! The absence of these stories also meant that I felt so alone in my experiences and thought I was literally the only person in the world who had ever been raped or abused. Feeling lonely with something like that can be so debilitating because you’re thinking that you can’t talk to someone as they won’t be able to empathise, understand, or identify in any way.
There was also a huge lack for content on mental health, suicide, and self-harm back then which meant that I was absolutely terrified when I started experiencing hallucinations and thoughts to self-harm and attempt suicide. I think that it stemmed from the fact that without any information to the contrary, I thought if I told anyone what I was experiencing and feeling I’d be locked away in a psychiatric hospital and medicated! I also didn’t know who I would even talk to in terms of professionals. Like, I didn’t realise you could speak to your GP or even that you could have therapy on the NHS.