Mental Health Awareness is something that our generation has really taken hold of and put to the forefront of the change we want to see in society. We are at a point now that we need to look at ourselves in our everyday lives and think about what we are doing to change the negative narrative on mental health which is still being perpetuated by the clickbait media.
The media has come to be seen as this looming presence which is above the normal laws of society, it is something we cannot change. Although there is regulation within British media, damage is often already done as soon as articles hit the newsstands, but now increasingly and more problematically, our Facebook feeds. The most shocking headlines get the most attention. So regardless of whether the message of the article is reflected in the headline or not, it is within the interest of online news outlets to create the most outrageous stories possible. There’s little doubt this is symptomatic of our refusal, on the whole, to pay for news as we used to but prioritising business over journalistic integrity perpetuates this dangerous trend. But we, the consumers, have more power than we realise. The Day Family, who tragically lost their son Archie in October last year after he lost his battle with mental health are an inspiring example of that.
In January this year the coroners report regarding Archie’s death was released, it detailed his struggle with mental health but also his larger than life personality. It also stated that Archie lost his phone the night of his death. Archie’s father Ken, who has very kindly spoken to The Broad, believed that the coroner’s report would be the final hurdle they would have to face before they could start truly coming to terms with Archie’s death. But just three days later, to the family’s horror, the story was picked up by the tabloids. Their headlines led with the fact Archie had lost his phone the night of his death and that this was the reason for his suicide. He was depicted as another spoilt millennial who couldn’t control his emotions and, as Ken believes, they were using his son for clickbait.
‘I don’t think any journalists wakes up in the morning and decides to write an article mocking a kid killing themselves’ Ken tells me, however he does believe the pressure put on journalists to produce a constant stream of stories to be put online clearly allows this type of thing to happen; as soon as they click send they just move onto the next story with little regard for the previous. There was no effort to contact the family, they and Archie’s story were just collateral damage. When Archie’s sister Emily contacted the Daily Mail to complain they told her they were sorry for her loss and swiftly hung up.
But in this awful situation, Ken and Emily have seen an opportunity to help people. Through a social media campaign, they managed to get the Mail’s headline changed so that now if you google Archie’s name you will see ‘tributes paid to a ‘loving son with a very kind heart’. Ken has appeared on LBC and other media outlets; he tells me he wants to set the records straight for his son but also engage people in a wider conversation with their story.
The Days want people to start being more proactive about mental health and changing how it is talked about. Although Ken thinks there is still a long way to go before the tabloids change their tune, the response and support the family have received shows that we are getting there slowly but surely.
‘Even in my lifetime there has been a huge change in how we talk about a whole range of social issues, we have to keep moving forward with this.’ The Days have proved that applying pressure to these news outlets can have effects. Ken also wants to people to join mental health charities as he has done. He points out that this issue spans the whole of society; ‘how many people, especially those with young families, ask for time off work to go see someone about their mental health?’ People think that there is too much to lose by doing this as mental health isn’t given the significance it needs.
‘There is still an absolutely enormous amount to do’ he tells me; but with an air of optimism. Changes will not happen overnight, but Ken believes that people are getting better at seeing past clickbait headlines and focussing on the real issues.
If we want to see a change in the narrative on mental health, we have to be a bit more like Ken and Emily, who through a tragic situation have been active in trying to make an impact. If we don’t take our awareness of statistics and problems and turn it into actions not much is going to change. Our generation has an opportunity to help create a society where people feel more comfortable asking for help and I encourage you all to take it.