Queen Letizia attended a mental health conference on Wednesday, the “Means of Communication and Mental Health” conference hosted by the Spanish Mental Health Confederation and the Foundation of Spanish Urgent.
The purpose of the conference, according to the Spanish Mental Health Confederation’s website, was to bring together “journalists and communication professionals from different media and people with mental disorders who have shared their views on the treatment of this reality in the media.”
Queen Letizia was greeted upon arrival by the Minister of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare, the President of the EFE Agency (an international news company, where the conference was hosted), the President of Mental Health Spain, and the General Coordinator of the BBVA Foundation.
Once inside the auditorium, Queen Letizia listened to discussions on mental health and media, particularly how word choice is of paramount importance when discussing the topic.
Judith González, a philologist, spoke of how words matter when discussing mental health in the media.
“Words matter, questions matter and answers even more,” González said. “Some words can be correct from the normative point of view, but they are not the most appropriate and for some people they can weigh like a slab.
“Adaptation is about the terms from a more social point of view.”
González suggested that words carry a harshness when discussing mental health and that it’s not helpful to use words like ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘anorexic’ when talking about those issues.
Fernando Garea, the President of the EFE Agency, spoke about the media’s responsibility in reporting on mental health while a new style guide was unveiled.
Garea said that its purpose was “to reaffirm and claim the rigour, sensitivity and responsibility in the treatment of news and information related to mental health.”
He continued, “EFE’s commitment to initiatives and projects whose objective is to give presence and visibility to groups and situations that are distorted, unfocused or marginalised by society and the media, such as those derived from mental health.”
In the style guide, called Words Matter, Basilio García Copín, the head of the Mental Health Committee with the Spanish Mental Health Confederation writes that there are three purposes to the guide:
- At first, we have to reconcile the idea that the group of people who we live with a mental health problem is of the most diverse.
- Second, you have to mark in the conscience collective, the true idea that mental health is an issue that affects us all as a whole and same.
- Finally, we have to go beyond the story of the drama, families undone, of the persistence of the symptoms, and place the person as a social being, who needs of a social role to achieve the psychic well-being. There is a point in the recovery of a person that what you need is a breath for the purpose.
Copín continues that “The day that society understands that diversity in mental function is a sign of wealth, we can say that the stigma has been a bad dream.”
The guide goes on to urge the media to “Use the right words, offer positive information that promotes mental health care, avoid stigmatisation through images, give contrasted data or allow people with mental disorders to tell their own stories.”
Before departing the conference, Queen Letizia had a chance to meet with the organisers, participants and attendees.