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Reviews Press

How “suicide” coverage went off the rails

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 18 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1243
  1. Raj Persaud, Gresham professor for public understanding of psychiatry
  1. Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospitals

    Mental health workers complain that psychiatric illness is possibly the most stigmatised of human conditions, but even within the category some stigmas are seen as more equal than others.

    Being placed on a section of the Mental Health Act recently earned boxer Frank Bruno the soubriquet “bonkers” from the red top tabloids. But now after the Berkshire rail disaster earlier this month, when a train collided with a car at a level crossing killing seven people, the British popular media remind us that suicidality remains perhaps the most stigmatised of all psychological difficulties.

    It is sobering to recall that the Sun had to shamefacedly retract its “bonkers” Bruno headline after a storm of protest from mental health charities. Yet after the train disaster, no newspaper was similarly forced to retract the opprobium they heaped on the head of dead hotel chef Brian Drysdale, who was accused of causing the crash by parking his …

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