Health and Wellbeing

People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time

8/10 believe headclutchers aren’t an accurate representation of how it feels to have a mental health problem. Sarah Braes, Counselling Health & Wellbeing Intern tells us more about the Time to Change campaign …


Have your ever seen a ‘headclutcher’? They’re those photos of a person holding their head in their hands, usually while wearing dark clothes and sitting against a grey background and often edited to look washed-out and monotonous. They turn up in articles about mental health all the time, which when you think about it is a little strange, because who actually behaves like that? According to Time To Change, not people with mental health problems …


People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time

A recent survey of over 2000 people who support associated charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness found that:

• 76% don’t think people with mental health problems ‘look depressed’ all the time
• 8/10 believe headclutchers aren’t an accurate representation of how it feels to have a mental health problem

Why, then, are these photos still so common in the media, especially when the images associated with an article or story can have such a huge impact on readers? It might be because mental health is such a complex issue to illustrate, which leaves publishers to fall back on the overly simplistic headclutcher as it’s ‘what’s always been used’.


De-stigmatising mental illness 

In order to combat the widespread use of such stereotypical images, Time To Change have launched a new campaign – ‘Get the picture’. This is partly about encouraging picture editors, image agencies and photographers to think twice about using creating, keeping and using headclutchers, but it’s also about de-stigmatising mental illness and helping rid society of the assumption that ‘people with mental health issues always look depressed’.


Raising awareness

In order to raise awareness of their campaign, Time To Change are asking people to take ‘headclutcher’-style selfies with a fun twist and post them on social media: alongside the hashtag #GoodbyeHeadclutcher on Twitter and #GetThePicture on Twitter.

Stephen Fry – whose struggles with bipolar disorder have been well-documented – has demonstrated his support for the campaign with his own #GoodbyeHeadclutcher photo, as have countless others from across the country. Others have taken a slightly different approach and posted pictures of themselves smiling whist experiencing depression – another way of showing that depressed people don’t always look or behave in the ways the media would have you believe.


Getting involved

Taking your own #GoodbyeHeadclutcher selfie or posting a picture showing what your mental health problem really looks like is a great way of promoting the campaign, and in turn de-stigmatising the topic of mental health. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem during our lifetime – so shouldn’t the media be representing this widespread issue in a fairer, more balanced and more accurate way? I certainly think so.

Time To Change encourage you to contact any media outlets you see using a headclutcher with information about the ‘Get the picture’ campaign, or tweet them with the hashtag #GetThePicture. If you yourself are involved in choosing images for publications, they’ve created a free online database full of pictures of real people with real experiences of mental health problems. They encourage you to use these as an alternative to headclutchers in order to illustrate mental health in a more varied and realistic way.


If you are experiencing any mental health issue, support is available

If you are experiencing any mental health issue and you would like some extra support please contact the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service.
Visit the University’s Intranet and search ‘Health and Wellbeing’ to find out more about the services available to you, no matter how big or how small your problem may be.

The Counselling, Health & Wellbeing team are used to dealing with all manner of things. Our team of professionals offer a confidential service that aims to support students. Please contact us in confidence by email, telephone or call in, whichever suits you best.


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Best wishes
Sarah Braes, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Student Intern

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