Ensuring Accurate Portrayals of Mental Illness
They've got their eyes, ears and minds open -- and their pens ready! They are the Palmetto Media Watchers, 70 people from all across South Carolina working to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. And you could be one of them.
But what do they do with their eyes and pens and all that? What would be your role as a Palmetto Media Watcher? As the name implies, Palmetto Media Watch involves "watching" and it involves "media." Specifically, it's an education initiative to help the media accurately and fairly represent people with mental illnesses. When a Palmetto Media Watch member encounters a media article, program or advertisement that unfairly or inaccurately portrays people with mental illnesses, that member takes action. The program asks volunteers to write letters and make corrections, as well as commend accurate and sensitive portrayals, too. Palmetto Media Watch members are teachers, because they will supply the facts and personal stories of mental illness to media sources, essentially teaching those who teach the masses.
Palmetto Media Watch hopes to erase the stigma by teaching people that mental illness is no joke, and that people with mental illnesses are full of creativity, energy and dreams, just like the rest of the population. People who receive treatment are no more violent than the general population when taking medication, and those people can lead productive, active lives - so long as society accepts them. And if radio talk shows, television sitcoms and billboard advertising portray mental illness accurately, society will accept this disease, just as heart disease or cancer is accepted.
Palmetto Media Watchers keep in touch through a newsletter, called Palmetto Media Watch and occasional training. If you are interested in monitoring the image of mental illness in South Carolina, become a Palmetto Media Watcher. We supply the media addresses and the training. You lend your eyes, ears and mind to help eliminate the stigma that one in five South Carolinians face, as they face their mental illness, and face society.
Contact Sue Perry at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health for more information on Palmetto Media Watchers. Sue is at (803) 898-8582. Or get the training information, sample letters and the media contact list through the Palmetto Media Watch training guide which is on the SCDMH website, www.state.sc.us/dmh/mediawatchmanual.htm.