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Complainant Name:
Rethink

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mail

Complaint:

The Press Complaints Commission received over 180 complaints about a comment article by Janet Street-Porter about depression. Among the complaints was one from the mental health charity Rethink, which was taken forward as the ‘lead' complaint.

The charity said that, while Ms Street-Porter was entitled to her opinion about depression, her piece contained a number of inaccuracies.

Resolution:

The newspaper said that it regularly carried supportive articles about depression and that Ms Street-Porter, who was clearly not projecting herself as a medical expert, was entitled to her personal views about the subject. It pointed out that it had published a letter in response to the piece a few days after it appeared (which can be seen here.)

However, following the initiation of the PCC's investigation, it agreed to run a letter from Rethink's chief executive, Paul Jenkins, and the complaint was resolved on this basis. The text of the published letter was as follows:

"In calling depression ‘the new trendy illness', Janet Street-Porter makes some misleading claims. Depression isn't rare. One in six people will be diagnosed with depression during their lifetime and millions will experience symptoms but won't seek help.

Depression doesn't affect only those who ‘have enough money.' It can affect anyone, regardless of background. The World Health Organisation's 2001 report says: ‘Mental disorders aren't the exclusive preserve of any special group. The notion that mental disorders are problems of relatively richer parts of the world is wrong.'

Neither is depression a ‘new' ailment: its distinct set of symptoms were first categorised in the 1950s. There is no single known cause: current explanations suggest a combination of brain chemistry, genetic and environmental factors. It's highly unlikely that a whole (earlier) generation of people were entirely unaffected by it, as Ms Street-Porter suggests.

The insinuation that people affected by mental illness are not stigmatised would be laughable, if the impact of the stigma wasn't so detrimental. Research published by Rethink in 2008 showed that nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems have been victims of discrimination, with many ostracised from work, social activities and the community."

Date Published: 05/08/2010



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