I’m writing to request that your organization issue a written apology in “The Hopewell Sun” for the headline your paper published in the December 7-13, 2011 edition, “Man goes crazy for Thanksgiving,” page 6. The article reports that a Trenton man became violent and was arrested.
The use of the word “crazy” in the headline indicates your editor’s lack of knowledge about national advocacy efforts to improve the coverage of mental illnesses by the media. Among professional journalists, it is common knowledge that the word “crazy” is a discriminatory and disrespectful term to describe people who manage mental illness. Further, a large body of research provides evidence that much more violent crime is perpetrated against people with mental illness than committed by them.
Your use of the word also indicates a lack of knowledge about similar editorial ignorance in 2001 by a Trenton paper that included the phrase “roasted nuts” in a headline referring to people who were patients at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital during the time a fire broke out at the hospital. This incident was picked up by national advocacy groups and national media for its blatant disrespect for people managing mental illness.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has disseminated guidance to the media on how to accurately and professionally portray people with mental illness in such away that you fulfill your responsiblity to dispel the myth that people with mental illness are violent or that they are fair game for ridicule. Without accurate and respectful coverage, people in need of treatment will go without the facts that mental health is treatable and in no way limits their ability to live peacefully in their communities.
Please contact me for further information or for sources that you choose to include in your written apology.