Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. /
  3. Media
  4. /
7 October 2013

Labour health team criticises Sun front page on murders by “mental patients”

A spokesperson for Andy Burnham tells The Staggers that the paper's headline is "a disgraceful reinforcement of the stigma against those with mental illness".

By George Eaton

At the start of a week in which press standards will come under scrutiny again (the Privy Council will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to approve the industry’s proposed system of regulation or that backed by Parliament), the Sun has shamed itself with its front page today.

The paper’s headline reads “1,200 killed by mental patients”, a shock figure (printed in blood red) created by compiling 10 years’ worth of data and perfectly designed to encourage further prejudice against mental health sufferers. In reality, since around a quarter of the population experience mental health problems each year, the number of murders committed by patients is disproportionately low. Around 95% of homicides are committed by people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem, but you wouldn’t know that from the Sun’s headline. The greatest threat that sufferers pose is to themselves; 90% of those who die through suicide experience some form of mental distress. 

Labour’s health team rebuked the Sun on Twitter last night and a spokesperson for Andy Burnham told me:

This is a disgraceful reinforcement of the stigma against those with mental illness. The paper will face serious questions on Monday. Archaic attitudes still define our approach to mental health – we must challenge them.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

In addition, Alastair Campbell, who is campaigning for better public understanding of mental health problems, wrote on Twitter: “Will the Sun tomorrow do exclusive investigation on numbers killed by what they would call ‘normal people’?”

He added: “Constant media linkage of violence and mental illness leads to violence against the mentally ill rather than by them.”